NICS Summary of Findings

"NICS"

NATIONAL INSTANT CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

How will the National Instant Checking System operate under Part Two
of the Brady law when it comes on line this year in November?
A study undertaken by the author of Gun Laws of America

Alan Korwin

1. GUN REGISTRATION LIST TO BEGIN ON NOV. 30, 1998

The system design calls for several long-term records of gun buyers' names and identifying information, coupled with information about their purchases. The federal plan is to insist that this isn't registration of gun owners or gun sales, which would be strictly prohibited by law [18 USC 926]. One justification that may be offered is that BATF or the FBI may, in the future, destroy the registry a little at a time.

2. BRADY PART 2 AFFECTS HANDGUNS AND LONG GUNS

Under Brady Part 1 only handguns were affected. As you may recall, in 1993 Congress passed The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. But now, under Brady Part 2, all firearms buyers will be checked, and cataloged, by the authorities. Many other changes apply. [18 USC 922(t)]

3. NICS CREATES AN UNAUTHORIZED TAX OF $1 MILLION PER WEEK

Congress has appropriated virtually unlimited funds to build the National Police Computer known as NCIC. The citizen-checking portion passed under the Brady law has its own allotment of $200 million. Despite this, the "authorities" plan to tax the public for each use, but only if local police aren't cooperating¥states with FBI-approved police departments will pay no tax. The tax is imposed by the FBI, although issued as a BATF regulation, a concept that raises its own disturbing concerns. There is no authority for the tax in Brady Part 1 or Part 2. A push to lower or eliminate the tax is likely, which may make certain groups or individuals look good, and ease acceptance of the scheme.

4. ATF OUT, FBI IN, IN BLOODLESS COUP

You have to wonder what BATF really thinks about all this. BATF has yearned for years to run a gun-buyer registry, and now the FBI has it, and it's better than anything ATF dreamed of. It runs in real time! ATF has a long scar-filled history of being controlled by legal prohibitions in this area. The FBI does not. All sorts of questions are raised. Is the FBI becoming the National Police Force, prohibited under the Tenth Amendment? Now that FBI dominates the gun sales arena, what exactly does ATF do? Do they become simply the AT? If tobacco is zealously regulated as planned under health care laws, maybe they're just the A, uh, what? The A Team? Will ATF be disbanded and its staff rolled into the FBI? That plan has been floated before more efficient government, less duplication.

5. FEDS OBTAIN "SHALL ISSUE" CONTROL OF GUN SALES

This point was a rallying cry not too long ago, when it applied to concealed-weapon permits: officials had gravitated toward permits that they "may issue," which they didn"t, and the public fixed the abuse by changing laws and ousting politicians. But why bother with control of permits, when you can control gun sales themselves. Under the current plan, if the FBI says no to you, or tells you to wait, it becomes a crime to make a firearm purchase. That"s a lot of power. No method for redress of grievances has been offered it's still in the works. This is a new wrinkle civil rights subjected to clerical drafting delays.

6. NO CONTROL SYSTEM EXISTS DESPITE PRIOR ABUSES

The mindset, and some might say arrogance, of the people developing the system may be glimpsed from the fact that no safeguards, audits or compliance mechanisms are included in the plan. Surprisingly, the nation's largest gun lobby hasn't even complained, or informed its members. It's public knowledge that serious abuse exists with regard to government management of records (see sidebar "Indiana Experiment"). The FBI itself has released files, in apparent violation of law, merely to political interests.

7. ONLY FEDERALLY APPROVED ID CARDS CAN BE USED

One of the biggest surprises created under Brady Part 2 is the role of the upcoming National ID Card. The federal government was blown backwards when they attempted to introduce a national person card as a medical tool. Under the new approach, passed in 1996 (P.L. 104-208, Sec. 656), the feds will refuse to recognize any ID (basically driver's licenses, but all other forms too) that doesn't meet their standards. A concealed-carry permit issued with a non-federally approved driver's license as a form of ID, would no longer be valid for buying firearms and bypassing the Brady process (though a new permit that meets the standards might still qualify).

Being Implemented Under Dept. Of Transportation

To help deflect the sizzling rebuke this idea has met with in the past, it will appear to be implemented at a state level (but under federal control), through your local motor vehicles office. No state's driver's licenses (or other state ID cards for non-drivers) will be recognized by the feds for obtaining welfare benefits, or for any other federal purpose, including compliance with Part 2 of Brady.

Must Use Social Security Number

Any pretense of privacy for social security numbers is finally crushed under these requirements. The feds will recognize a license that has no "soshe" on it, as long as the state's DMV keeps your number on file (without printing it on the license itself). For people who refuse to give their soshe, they'll give an alternative number to use, forever. Every gun sale will then include your, call it what it is, Federal ID Number.

Federal "Biometric" Coding Under Development

This is authorized and well under way, but may not be ready for the Oct. 1, 2000, implementation of the National ID Cards. The magnetic strip (or equivalent computer storage medium), to be required on all citizen ID cards, will contain a digitized fingerprint, retina scan, voice print or other biometric identifier. You won't be able to get a driver's license without giving up your fingerprint. Most Americans have never been fingerprinted. It appears to be the ultimate connector between an ID card and the person holding it it would guarantee that your identity is established, and link in lock step with national files on you. Looking to the long term, when thumbprint readers are inexpensive and widely dispersed, you may not even need a card (or a PIN number for your bank account). Think of the cost savings. The process for correcting mistakes, if any, is unclear at this point.

Creates A National Citizen Card

There's no need to debate the point any longer. National ID Cards (we could call them NICS for short) are law, will be implemented soon, and will help compile data on every American. Not the least of which is a complete record of all commercial gun sales. The existing supply of guns could swap around some, outside the federal view (and they realize that of course, and are working on the "private" sales issue), but nothing new will enter the supply chain without immediate government contact and control. They don't appear to intend to use that control in any nefarious way, at the present time.

8. BREAKS NEW GROUND IN FEDERAL CONTROL OF COMMERCE

For the first time in history, sales of a consumer product will be federally tracked, on a non-stop comprehensive national basis, permanently, in real time. Sales activity will be flooding into the FBI office at a mind boggling rate, and minute by minute tallies could literally be posted on an electronic tote board. Sort of like election returns only much more efficient. Wouldn't industry love to see that tote board! Sales volumes could be managed geographically by manipulating response times, and a given area could theoretically be blacked out entirely.

The experience gained by the federal government in its full-scale firearm tracking program will have enormous value in tracking and controlling other products, from cigarettes to red meat. Who would have thought the FBI would end up with job opportunities for people qualified to work in the Dept. of Commerce.

9. THERE IS NO PLAN TO APPREHEND CRIMINALS WHO APPLY

The Brady law, Parts 1 and 2, were publicly presented as crime stopping measures. That was the whole purported need for their existence. It then seems odd to reflect that this report goes on at such length yet fails to mention the crime stopping abilities of this expensive and sophisticated project. Surely there must be some.

The one truly positive effect of the new infrastructure may be to prevent retail gun sales to known criminals. That's good. Unfortunately, no resources or plans exist to do much about the criminals who are identified. It seems like an awful lot of expense to find these people, who commit a serious crime just by applying at retail, collect their names and addresses, and then let them all go away, eager to get a gun, cash in hand. Maybe this affects the U.S. Attorney General's announcements that arrests are down.

10. LOSS OF FUNDING

The NICS plan has a small crime-control component, at the expense of obvious and severe threats to fundamental liberties. The purpose of the program, if current proposals are any measure, appears to have more to do with citizen control than crime control. Penalties for the serious crime of applying publicly for a gun if you are a known criminal will not be enforced, in exchange for a huge taxpayer and civil-rights burden. This does not seem like much of a plan. Subsequent gun acquisition by the known criminals who are Brady-impaired is unaffected.

Although Brady Part 2 does create a substantial number of federal jobs (at least 500 employees are planned for the data center in Clarksburg, W. Va.), specifics about support, ancillary needs and total cost are not readily available, but likely to be substantial.

It would appear that if the funding and personnel of this project were turned instead toward apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating known criminals, the benefit to the public would be greater.

Some 250,000 known criminals may have already been identified, if the numbers are correct, under Brady Part 1. (Even the lowest estimate, 44,000 published by BATF, is a substantial number of bad guys.) Their names and addresses are already on file, thanks to the paperwork process from Brady 1, in operation now for five years.

Let's get to work, go after them, and stop writing down the names of every honest person who decides to purchase a firearm.


Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer and author of seven books on gun law, including Gun Laws of America Every Federal Gun Law on the Books with Plain English Summaries. Permission to reprint this article is granted to non-profit organizations, provided credit is given to Alan Korwin, Bloomfield Press, Phoenix, AZ. All others, just call us.

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