by Dave Workman
When Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice declined to allow National Instant Check System (NICS) transaction records to be used in the on-going terrorist investigations because the law does not allow such use, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) were incensed.
They immediately filed legislation that would give law enforcement agencies access to NICS records for investigations and for other purposes. Sponsored by Schumer, Kennedy and several other anti-gunners, the bill, S-1788, also identified as A bill to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to NICS records in law enforcement investigations, and for other purposes, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which attempted to put Ashcroft on the hot seat in early December over the terrorist investigation.
At the same time, Kennedy issued a statement urging Ashcroft to back off on his effort to reduce the NICS transaction records to be destroyed after 24 hours. Kennedy even used the opportunity to attempt a revival of legislation he sponsored with Schumer and other Senate anti-gunners that would retain a 90-day NICS record retention.
Under S-1253, introduced in July after Ashcroft announced his intention to shorten the record retention period to 24 hours, the Department of Justice and its divisions including the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall make those records available to the Department of Treasury and its divisions including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), for the purpose of conducting system audits to detect fraud and misuse of the system and to protect the privacy and security of the system.
ATF had sought the NICS records to see whether any of several hundred detained individuals, who are non-residents, had purchased firearms during the past 90 days. Ashcrofts response was a definite No because the current Brady Law language expressly prohibits such use of those records.
The demand for expanded access to NICS records brought an immediate response from Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).
This is precisely the kind of fishing expedition that gunowners and civil libertarians wanted to prevent when they successfully fought to limit the uses for NICS check records, Gottlieb stated. Indeed, this is exactly the kind of demand that civil rights activists predicted when NICS was created, and why language was included in the legislation to prohibit retention of NICS records. Simply because the government does retain that informationin direct contravention of the Brady Law languagedoes not make it acceptable to further abuse the law, and the privacy of millions of gunowners who have not committed any crime.
John M. Snyder, CCRKBA director of public affairs, was blunt: Schumer and company obviously are trying to put the Administration . . . between the devil and the deep blue sea.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) concurred in its weekly Institute for Legislative Action fax alert to members and activists.