ACLU says Reid’s gun legislation could threaten privacy rights, civil liberties
Since it’s an attack on the right to keep and bear arms, I wouldn’t bother with the word “could” with respect to civil liberties.
But Calabrese says that Reid’s legislation fails to include those “privacy best practices.”
“Contrast this with what the existing [Reid] legislation says, which is simply that a record has to be kept of a private transfer,” Calabrese highlighted, “and it doesn’t have any of the protections that we have in current law for existing licensees.”
“We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database.”
“And they come to use databases for all sorts of different purposes,” Calabrese said. “For example, the National Counterterrorism Center recently gave itself the authority to collect all kinds of existing federal databases and performed terrorism related searches regarding those databases. They essentially exempted themselves from a lot of existing Privacy Act protections.”
“So you just worry that you’re going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected.”
Reid’s legislation is hauntingly vague about who would physically keep information about American gun purchases, but it’s crystal clear that records will be kept.
That is the privacy part. Here is the civil liberties angle:
The ACLU’s second “significant concern” with Reid’s legislation is that it too broadly defines the term “transfer,” creating complicated criminal law that law-abiding Americans may unwittingly break.
“[I]t’s certainly a civil liberties concern,” Calabrese told TheDC. “You worry about, in essence, a criminal justice trap where a lawful gun owner who wants to obey the law inadvertently runs afoul of the criminal law.”
“They don’t intend to transfer a gun or they don’t think that’s what they’re doing, but under the law they can be defined as making a transfer. We think it’s important that anything that is tied to a criminal sanction be easy to understand and avoid allowing too much prosecutorial discretion.”
“For example, different gun ranges are treated differently,” Calabrese said. “You’re firing a firearm in one geographic location, you’re OK, but in another, you’re not. And those kind things, it’s going to be hard for your average consumer to really internalize and figure out the difference.”
“Criminal sanctions shouldn’t hinge on those kinds of differences,” he said.