No, it's not some Democratic scheme to create a national gun registry.
President Joe Biden's administration proposed a minor technical change in May to require gun vendors to preserve their sales records for longer. Now, House Republicans are claiming it is a secret scheme to illegally create a federal gun registry.
"The ATF's proposed rule is a giant leap towards a federal firearm registry, in violation of the law and the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners," Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale tweeted on Monday.
"The ATF collected 54.7 million gun records in 2021 alone, giving many gun owners cause for concern," wrote Texas Rep. Michael Cloud. "Today I led 51 Republicans in opposition to a proposed rule which would lead to the collection of MORE gun records and could enable the creation of a national gun registry."
The two were among 52 House Republican signers of a letter — sent Monday to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — objecting to the proposed rule that would require federally licensed gun sellers to keep sales records beyond the current requirement.
"For decades, FFLs have only been required to maintain firearm transaction records for 20 years, after which they can be destroyed," the lawmakers wrote. "Many gun owners value the privacy afforded by the destruction of these records of their law-abiding firearm transfers after this period."
The group — which also included House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer, and House Judiciary Committee ranking Republican member Jim Jordan — argued that because vendors provide their records to the Bureau if they go out of business, that "means that 100% of all lawful commercial firearm transfers would eventually end up in an ATF computer system, thereby creating a permanent database."
Illinois Rep. Mike Bost, one of the signers, tweeted this "would effectively allow the ATF to establish a federally-run firearms database."
But this minor recordkeeping expansion would not, as they suggest, create a federal gun registry in violation of the 1986 Firearms Owners' Protection Act.
Gun shop records only go to the ATF if the licensed vendor closes. With the change, the federal government would only gain access to records the business has held for longer than 20 years.
The GOP lawmaker's objection came just days after the National Rifle Association warned that the rule — which proponents say is designed to modernize record retention — would be "burdensome" for dealers and "diminish gun owner privacy."
Republicans have long attempted to fearmonger and scare gun owners into thinking — incorrectly — that Biden wants to confiscate their guns. He has proposed requiring universal background checks for gun purchases and efforts to stop new sales of semi-automatic assault weapons.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the United States has seen a significant uptick in gun violence. The NRA and its GOP allies have thus far blocked even the smallest legislative attempts to address the problem.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.