We all remember then-Senator Obama’s famous mocking of heartland Americans who “cling to guns or religion” at a 2008 fundraiser. As a firearm owner myself, I wear this description proudly.
I am not the only one. There are approximately 300 million privately owned firearms in the United States; a number that rises by 10 million annually. And those of us who clung to our Second Amendment rights before are keeping an even tighter grip today as the Obama administration continues its efforts to chip away at these fundamental freedoms.
Gun ownership is not a special privilege reserved for a select few. It is a constitutionally protected freedom to which the government should be completely colorblind.
In the years since President Obama made those telling remarks, he has proposed bans on so-called “assault weapons” and high capacity magazine clips; publicly opposed bipartisan, House-passed legislation to free up public lands for recreational hunting; and his handpicked Attorney General oversaw the illegal transfer of some 2,000 firearms across our border into Mexico as part of the failed “Operation Fast and Furious” as reported by Fox News.
Our conservative majority in the House of Representatives has stood firm in its opposition to proposals that would erode our Second Amendment freedoms. But we all know that, in the absence of help from Congress, the Obama administration has never been shy about using its infamous pen and phone to rewrite the rules on its own terms.
Such was the case with a quietly issued 2012 rule by the president’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to revise its Form 4473 – a document that must be completed by both the seller and buyer as a part of most gun sales. The modified form now requires customers to separately list their race and ethnicity.
Besides being highly intrusive, many find the similar back-to-back questions to be just plain confusing and, as a result, check one box or the other instead of both. This is considered an ATF violation and, when a gun dealer is audited, could result in the loss of their license.
Forcing gun retailers to collect racial data on every last customer – and issuing steep penalties to those that do not – is shameless backdoor gun control and a stunning privacy violation to boot. To make the situation even more insulting to gun owners, the ATF cannot rightly say what the information is used for in the first place.
When Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) wrote the ATF last year asking for what purpose the data was collected, its response was to note that it has required some form of race information since 1968 – in other words, “this is how we have done it all along,” and to pin responsibility for the latest change on a Clinton administration-era directive from the Office of Management and Budget that was supposed to be implemented nearly ten years earlier.
This year, the ATF fine-tuned its talking points, telling The Hill that the race and ethnicity data “can be helpful when tracing firearms used in crimes.” There’s just one problem with that logic – it directly contradicts the agency’s claims last year when it assured Americans that it has “never compiled or maintained [race information] in any database.”
Confused yet? You’re not the only one. This lack of explanation from ATF has even drawn the ire of traditionally left-leaning groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and I believe it deserves a response from Congress as well.
Gun ownership is not a special privilege reserved for a select few. It is a constitutionally protected freedom to which the government should be completely colorblind. That is why, with the help of Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), I reintroduced the Freedom from Intrusive Regulatory Enforcement of Arbitrary Registration Mandates (FIREARM) Act. This simple, one-page bill would prohibit the federal government from requiring Americans to disclose their race or ethnicity in order to purchase a gun.
Washington may not be able to agree on much these days, but protecting our Second Amendment should be an area of broad consensus. Law abiding citizens should never have to play a game of 20 questions with Uncle Sam just to access this basic right.
I hope my colleagues will give the FIREARM Act the consideration it deserves so that we can reverse this latest regulatory overreach and ensure that fairness and privacy are upheld in our nation’s gun laws.
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