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MEDIA CATCHING ON TO DANGERS OF BACKGROUND CHECKS


By Larry Pratt

July 26, 2003 
NewsWithViews.com

There is a growing trend in American government centers to treat journalists like criminals - and like gun owners.

The Illinois Leader, an Internet daily news site, reports that at the Pennsylvania capitol in Harrisburg, reporters will not be issued an annual access card unless they submit to an annual criminal background check. The "compromise" that was worked out was to have their employers carry out the checks.

Chicago's city government is requiring fingerprints and criminal background checks also. The Chicago Police Department claims they will not keep this information, but a law long on the books requires this information to be on file before reporters get their access credentials.

The Illinois Leader quotes a reporter asking these excellent questions: "Who would have access to these background checks? It's hard for me to believe the police department will do background checks and not put that information in a file. Who will get it? An alderman with a grudge? Even if there's nothing illegal (in the background check), who knows what will show up? You should see the messages I'm getting from members. The scenarios are endless."

The scenarios are indeed endless. Now, let's consider the Brady Instant Background Check. The law requires destruction of the information about a gun purchaser once the government has given permission to exercise the right to have a gun. (Note: the previous sentence was intended to underscore the clear unconstitutionality and irreconcilability of rights and freedoms, as some journalists are beginning to understand.)

However, there is no evidence that the records have been destroyed from the 1998 inception of the background check. Not exactly a faithful compliance with the law, but who is to police the police? The reporter's questions would seem to be equally relevant to gun owners' records Since the FBI, which maintains the records on computers in Clarksburg, WV, appears to be flagrantly violating the no-retention law, why would it not allow some politician to abuse the records? The FBI gave files on politicians to the Clinton White House, so mere citizens should have no illusion about the integrity of their illegally maintained records.

Or, perhaps, the FBI might decide to give their gun owner registry names in a particular state to officials in that state. When the BATF was maintaining the criminal records system they did just that years ago in California.

The federal registration list was used by police to go door-to-door in the Maryland suburbs of Washington during the Beltway Snipers' rampage in 2002. They thought they would find the crime gun in somebody's home. In fact, they found the crime gun the way they almost always do - with the criminal at the time of apprehension.

Canada has registered handguns since 1934 and has never, ever, not even once, solved a crime with its registry. This was pointed out by Canadian Member of Parliament, Gary Breitkreuz, in my Live Fire interview with him (http://gunowners.org/radio.htm). But as New York City showed us a few years ago, guns that have been registered can be confiscated when the government decides to leave its citizens defenseless.

To return to the reporter quoted by the Illinois Leader: "But there is almost unanimous concern about how the information would be used and who will be excluded." Gun owners might wonder if anti-self-defense bureaucrats in the FBI might plant disqualifying information in many of the files in their computers. It would be easy for them to do, and very difficult and costly for the gun owner to prove his innocence.

Already, that has been a problem for gun owners seeking the government's permission to exercise their right to get a gun. There is lot's of bad information in the government's criminal database that unfairly accuses gun owners of having a criminal record.

Airline travelers are facing the same problem, and when their name makes a suspected terrorist list, many have missed their flights because of all the scrutiny to which they were subjected.

Of course, a potential gun buyer could be dead following an erroneous denial because she could not get her name cleared in time to defend herself from a stalker.

And all of this expense and aggravation for a system that is no more effective than the Canadian gun registry in solving crimes or preventing them. Every time you hear a statistic about how many people were supposedly kept from getting a gun by the instant background check, remember that criminals get all the guns they want in England, which has imposed a near-total gun ban on the island nation.

Rather than do background checks on citizens, including reporters, would it not be more in keeping with the spirit of our Constitution to do criminal background checks on politicians?

2003 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved


Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The GOA web site is:  http://gunowners.org. Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at: http://gunowners.org/radio.htm   E-Mail: ldpratt@gunowners.org


 

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"Already, that has been a problem for gun owners seeking the government's permission to exercise their right to get a gun. There is lot's of bad information in the government's criminal database that unfairly accuses gun owners of having a criminal record."