The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, is stirring more controversy by requiring all gun buyers and sellers to reveal their race and ethnic background.
Even though it is not required by federal law, sections 10.a and 10.b of the latest version of Form 4473  or the Firearms Transaction Record Over the Counter form ask buyers to disclose their ethnicity and race.
It asks whether the buyer is “Hispanic or Latino” or “Not Hispanic or Latino” and then asks whether the buyer is:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Black or African American
- Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
It’s Not Optional
Answering the questions is not optional, and gun dealers who fail to get buyers to answer the questions could be shut down, The Washington Times reported. The word “optional” appears in bold letters next to question 8, which asks for a person’s Social Security number. But “optional” does not accompany the race and ethnic questions.
ATF said the information is being collected to comply with a reporting standard required by the Office of Management and Budget, an ATF spokesperson told The Times. That standard reportedly dates to the Clinton administration.
“This issue concerns me deeply because, first, it’s offensive, and, secondly, there’s no need for it,” Evan Nappen, a private practice firearms lawyer in New Jersey, told The Times. “If there’s no need for an amendment, then there’s usually a political reason for the change. What this indicates is it was done for political reasons, not law enforcement reasons.”
The form makes clear: “The information you provide will be used to determine whether you are prohibited under law from receiving a firearm.”
“There is nothing [in ATF or OMB’s website links addressing the change in policy] that supports the requirement that ATF collect race-based information. The OMB guidance merely describes what categories of race should look like if information is collected,” Laura Murphy, the American Civil Liberties Union director for legislative affairs in Washington, told The Times.
The forms are kept in a dealer’s possession and only obtained by the government during an audit or criminal investigation, The Times said. But some gun rights experts say the government doesn’t always follow the rules.
“We’ve been contacted by several dealers saying ATF is or has been making wholesale copies of their 4473 forms, and it’s just not legal,” Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, told the newspaper. “If this is what they’re doing somewhat out in the open, what’s going on behind closed doors? Are these names and demographic information getting phoned [in and] punched into a government computer? Do they ever come out?”
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