- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

House Republicans have included language in the omnibus appropriations bill to prevent federal law enforcement from maintaining a 90-day database on gun buyers, angering gun control advocates but moving closer to the original intent of the law.

The House passed an amendment to the omnibus bill earlier this month that would require all records from mandatory background checks on potential gun owners authorized by the Brady bill to be destroyed within 24 hours of a legal purchase. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) currently maintain the files for 90 days.

“Congress isn’t helping law enforcement when they pass something like this,” said Sarah Brady, chairman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Last week, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Brady law, and this week the House wants to pass legislation that limits law enforcement’s ability to stop criminals from getting guns.”

The bill will be taken up by the Senate when Congress returns in January. Senate leaders have not stated a position on the measure. The office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said the language to move to a 24-hour window is a shift to the original intent of the law.

Saying “the federal government has no right to build a database on law-abiding gun owners,” the NRA spokesman said the rule of retaining records for 90 days was not part of the Brady legislation, but was a Clinton administration executive policy.

Critics of the proposed 24-hour rule say it would prevent the ATF from requiring gun dealers to take regular inventories of their firearms, block public scrutiny of corrupt gun dealers by preventing the release of crime gun traces and multiple gun sale data, and require that ATF disavow the conclusions of numerous studies it has published.

“The best recent example has to do with individuals on the [FBI] terrorist watch list where FBI records showed that some had tried to purchase guns and others were actually successful and bought guns,” said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Brady bill, passed by Congress in 1993, created mandatory background checks on handgun and rifle purchases. It was named for former White House Press Secretary James S. Brady, who was shot during an assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.

Mr. Hamm said the Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed the rule change for background checks more than a year ago but faced “serious objections” from federal law enforcement officials.

“Congress doesn’t need to be stepping in and doing something that the executive branch looked at and decided not to do,” Mr. Hamm said.

But Mr. Cox said the congressional intent of the Brady bill was always for the records on law-abiding gun owners to be destroyed.

“They can and quite frankly should keep records on criminals and people who are denied,” the NRA spokesman said. “But the House and Senate have spoken that the federal government has no right to build a database on law-abiding gun owners, or any Americans who have been approved to own a gun,” Mr. Cox said.

In the past two years Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, has twice offered amendments to maintain the 90-day mandate, but those amendments have been defeated.

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