A bill circulating through Congress would stop the Biden administration from stockpiling records on American gun owners by altering federal law to allow firearm dealers to destroy sales records.
The bill, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, is a response to the Free Beacon's January report detailing how the Biden administration's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has amassed nearly one billion records detailing American citizens' firearm purchases, a figure that is far higher than Congress and the public has been aware of.
Rep. Michael Cloud (R., Texas), a chief critic of the ATF's gun database, is spearheading the legislation, which is likely to garner support from a wide range of Republican lawmakers but few Democrats in the House. The bill, dubbed the No REGISTRY Rights Act, would require the ATF to delete all existing records detailing American firearm sales. The ATF has been collecting this data for years, even though U.S. law prohibits the government from keeping a federal database on gun owners.
Cloud's bill is a direct response to the Biden administration's proposed plan to mandate that firearm dealers keep their records in perpetuity and provide them to the federal government. The bill would not only force the ATF to delete all of its existing firearm transactions records, but also allow licensed gun dealers to destroy their records when they go out of business, effectively stopping the federal government from adding to its database—which critics like Cloud and gun rights advocates have long seen as a blatant bid to track American gun owners in violation of the law.
The bill has 40 cosponsors, with more expected in the coming days.
Currently, when a licensed gun dealer goes out of business, their records for the last 20 years are transferred to the ATF and entered into its database. The Biden administration wants to change the law so that gun stores must keep these records in perpetuity, meaning that when a store closes, the government gets all their sales records.
"Americans have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms—to protect themselves and their families," congressman Cloud said. "This past year we’ve seen the Biden administration increase scrutiny on law-abiding Americans while turning a blind-eye to criminals and corruption. The Biden administration's actions have shown their intent to restrict the rights of gun owners across our nation and Congress must oppose them with full force. My bill would delete and dismantle ATF's record keeping, restore privacy for law-abiding American gun owners, and prevent a federal firearms registry from being created."
Within 90 days of the bill's passage the ATF would have to destroy all firearm transaction records and confirm to Congress that it has done so, including by disclosing the total number of records destroyed, according to the text of the legislation.
The ATF disclosed to lawmakers amid a congressional investigation earlier this year that it manages a database of 920,664,765 firearm purchase records, including both digital and hard copy versions of these transactions.
The ATF maintains that the database is not used to track legal gun owners, but is used by law enforcement to help solve gun crimes. The records are mostly digitized, meaning that the database is searchable. This has contributed to fears that the ATF is wrongly using the database to track legal firearm owners. At least 865,787,086 of the records are currently in a digital format and the rest are in the process of being converted.
Cloud and his supporters claim the bill will not hinder law enforcement. Authorities would still be able to search through records, though it would be done via existing and decentralized networks. Since many guns involved in crimes are stolen or obtained on the black market, tracing is not often a viable option for law enforcement.
Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, an advocacy group that has closely tracked the ATF database, told the Free Beacon that Cloud's legislation addresses one of the primary concerns for legal firearm owners.
"The stakes have never been higher for our Second Amendment rights. We currently have an anti-gun president and ATF collecting firearm records for a national registry with the intent of pushing more firearm restrictions, and potentially even eventual confiscation," Johnston said. "Representative Cloud's legislation is a major step in the right direction to defend our rights and dissolve this unconstitutional registry—every elected official who supports our Second Amendment should get behind it."