Jim Kessler of Third Way, who has anti-gun creds as long as a Lahti L-39, tells gun owners that they have nothing to fear from “universal” background checks.
Take it from Jim. Don’t Worry About Gun Registration
|Posted on February 22, 2013
Jim Kessler, in a “fresh thinking” Third Way memo posted online this month, says that Americans will have nothing to fear if Congress imposes a law that criminalizes private gun transfers by requiring FBI background checks on sales, gifts, and trades of firearms between family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and other acquaintances, along with the small percentage of non-dealer transactions that take place between strangers.
True, if such a law was imposed, gun control supporters would almost certainly follow it by calling for the FBI to retain records for 180 days on people who pass gun-purchase background checks, as Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) did in 2009. And if that law was imposed, gun control supporters would soon demand that the same records be retained permanently. Next, they would demand that the make, model and serial number be provided to the FBI with every firearm-related background check.
But Kessler isn’t worried, and Kessler is no novice to the gun control debate. As his online biography notes, he “served as Legislative and Policy Director to Representative/Senator Charles Schumer” and “from 2001 to 2004 he served as Director of Policy and Research for Americans for Gun Safety” (AGS).
Schumer, of course, was the author in the U.S. House of the federal “assault weapons” and magazine ban of 1994-2004, and of the Brady Bill the previous year. AGS was established by anti-gun activist Andrew McKelvey, who had been a board member of Handgun Control, Inc. (now called the Brady Campaign), and a founder of the Brady Campaign-affiliated “Million” Mom March.
AGS was also a project of the liberal-left Tides Center, which awards grants in support of gun control, and eventually merged with Third Way, founded in 2005 by Kessler and former AGS president Jonathan Cowan.
That incestuous circle brings us back to Kessler’s unconvincing little essay. According to Kessler, Americans concerned about the right to arms have nothing to fear from “universal” background checks, because “the background check system intentionally makes it impossible for the federal government to use records to create a registry of gun owners or the guns they purchase,” the system “destroys all records of running the check within 24 hours,” the “official record of the sale [the Form 4473, which contains the buyer's name and the gun's make, model and serial number] resides in the individual gun dealer’s files,” and federal law prohibits “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions.’”
That would be fine, except for one thing. Each of these protections for gun owners’ privacy has been hard-won by gun owners’ activism, and each has been attacked by anti-gun activists like Kessler. If they got their way, they would repeal all of the provisions Kessler now points to as he tries to reassure gun owners.
Nice try, Jim. But no cigar.
Also missing from Jim’s “analysis” is a fact known to anyone who’s familiar with Internet servers: Data never dies.
Let’s imagine that “universal” background checks become a requirement. (I say “universal” because criminals don’t participate in these checks. Only the law abiding do.) And let’s say that you plan to transfer a firearm to your granddaughter. Your granddaughter would be required to go through a background check to complete the transaction. How does this happen? The way the system is set up now, you would have to complete the transaction through a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder. That FFL either calls a toll-free number to make the check, or does it online over the Internet. If the FFL chooses to use the phone, the call is sent not to the FBI, but to one of several call centers on contract to the FBI. That data is then sent to the FBI’s NICS servers in Clarksburg, WV.
“So what’s the problem?”, you ask.
The problem is that in either case, your granddaughter’s information just passed through the hands of someone you don’t know and could have been copied.
For an Internet check, the information passed through multiple servers on its way to Clarksburg. Yes, the data is encrypted, but encryption doesn’t make it impossible to get at the data; just inconvenient. For a criminal with limited resources, this is a problem. For a government with unlimited resources, it’s not a problem.
For a telephonic check, it’s likely that the call center operators are just accessing the same Internet-based system. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that they’re using a dedicated line and not the Internet. Each workstation would connect to Clarksburg via the center’s main server. The information is still passed through multiple servers and routers within the call center. At any of these points, the data could be intercepted. The situation gets worse if the encryption is done at the server rather than at the workstations.
And what happens once the information gets to Clarksburg? Legally, it’s supposed to be destroyed. But the encrypted data passed through multiple routers and severs on its way to the main database server. What’s the legal requirement for that version of the data? Is the FBI required to wipe the encrypted data or just the decrypted, human-readable version? While a database of decrypted gun owner data would be illegal, what about a database of encrypted data? “But what’s the use of such a database?” you ask. The answer is that it has no value whatsoever.
…until some future Congress says that it’s OK to decrypt the data.
Have you spotted any reasons to worry yet?