Congress is trying to pass a bill to allow the federal government to pressure people to give up their Second Amendment rights in the name of suicide prevention. At the same time, newly released documents show multiple federal law enforcement agencies have effectively done this to people without congressional approval.
On Thursday, Gun Owners of America (GOA), put all its evidence online that shows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has permanently disarmed people. The gun rights group is lobbying on Capitol Hill to stop this practice from being codified.
Capitol Hill Supports FBI Disarming Program
The bipartisan bill called the “Preventing Suicide Through Voluntary Firearm Purchase Delay Act” passed the Judiciary Committee last week. It says the FBI would create a new database for people who volunteer to be blocked from buying or possessing a gun. The “delay” in the bill title refers to the period from which the person put themselves into the database and potentially subsequently took themselves out of it.
The FBI program, which claims it ended in 2019, and the House bill both use a “self-submission” program to make people prohibited who could not be blocked from having a gun under current law. The Brady Law of 1993 created the NICS system of background checks to help enforce the nine prohibited categories of people (from the Gun Control Act of 1968 ) from buying guns.
The House bill would upend federal background check gun law by making it arbitrary who loses the right to own or buy a gun. Under current law, a person is prohibited from buying or owning a firearm for mental health reasons only due to being adjudicated as mentally defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. The House bill makes it so people in this new FBI database who have not experienced these situations would still be committing a federal crime by possessing a gun.
“I’d like to make sure this bill in Congress doesn’t become law—lest it be weaponized against the American people,” Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of federal affairs told The Epoch Times.
“The very existence of a bill to codify what the FBI was already doing proves the FBI had no authorization from Congress to carry out this program,” said Johnston. The GOA’s released records showing the FBI has forced 23 people to permanently sign away their rights to own a gun, and the agency has still withheld documents in the ongoing Freedom of Information lawsuit.
“Congress should be punishing those bureaucrats who abused it instead of codifying the program and the unconstitutional behavior,” said Johnston.
Bipartisan Bill Speeds Through
The legislation has two Democrat cosponsors—Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)—and two Republicans. One of the two GOP cosponsors, Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), is not on the Judiciary Committee.
The other Republican, Ken Buck (R-Colo.), said after a lengthy debate about the problems that he hoped to work with Jaypal to fix the issues in the bill before the vote or in the days following. Since Democrats did not change anything, Buck voted against his own bill. The final vote was 20 to 16 on party lines.
However, Buck said in the hearing that he will work with Jayapal to rewrite the bill and reintroduce it in the next Congress. A spokesman for Buck declined to comment on the timing of the next steps.
Constitutional Issues With the Bill
During the committee markup, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), spoke out about the multiple problems with the bill. Massie pointed out that the major flaw in this proposed law is it wouldn’t just affect the person who opts to lose the right to have a firearm. The bill makes it illegal to give or sell a gun to someone on the FBI’s new “Voluntary Purchase Delay Database.”
“If my father added his name to this list ten years ago, and he says, ‘Hey Thomas, loan me a gun, I want to go hunting.’”said Massie. “And he seems of sound mind to me. And I loan him a shotgun. Then he goes out in the woods and kills himself, am I now guilty of a federal crime?”
The Democrats on the committee responded that is “not the intent of the bill.” Massie replied, “What we are marking up is not intent. It’s U.S. code and it’s very precise. People will be convicted based on the language that comes out of here today.”
Getting Rights Back
Unlike the FBI program which is permanent, Congress would allow people to remove themselves from the database by requesting it from the Attorney General, which would process after 21 days. Buck said this should be rewritten to be 21 days after the request is submitted instead of when the Department of Justice acknowledged receipt.
The other way to get out of the system is to petition the Attorney General with a declaration from a mental health professional that the individual does not present a substantial risk of harm to self. That would take effect in 24 hours. Buck said that part had to be rewritten. “I beg anyone on this committee to tell me when the federal government has done anything in 24 hours.”
Jayapal said she didn’t have a problem fixing the multiple changes Buck suggested. This indicates the bill will be able to move quickly to the Rules Committee and possibly the floor during the next Congress. It is unlikely there will be a vote by the full House in the remaining days of the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Secret Service and ICE Disarming
The move on Capitol Hill came at the same time as the FBI released more documents to the GOA, as first reported by The Washington Examiner, Emails show the U.S. Secret Service and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent signed forms to the FBI in which people who allegedly have mental health problems signed away their right to have a gun for the rest of their lives.
“Awesome!” one ICE agent wrote to the FBI once a citizen’s form was added to the database.
The Secret Service and ICE agents, both under the Department of Homeland Security, emailed multiple times with officials at the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in a coordinated, federal program to take guns away from people who were mostly on the feds’ radar for online chat rooms.
The internal document sent between the agencies is called the “NICS index self-submission form.” By signing the form, the person agrees to “denial of my right to purchase, to possess and to use any firearm.” It also says the signature means that once the person is in the so-called NICS index, he or she “may not be permitted to withdraw my name or information.”
FBI Hiding Information
Along with the emails from the other agencies, the FBI released eight more completed forms which all checked the box to agree they had a mental health condition that caused them to be a danger to themselves or others. The FBI will not say how many people have been put into the background check system without violating any federal laws.
“We’d like to see these people who are not prohibited people removed from the NICS database. The federal government had no authorization to disarm them and take away their Second Amendment rights,” said Johnson. The FBI did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the program.
The agency has been slow-walking the release of these documents from the program that supposedly stopped in 2019. The agency wrote in the latest release to GOA’s attorney Robert J. Olson that the new tranche was just 16 of the 22 pages reviewed. While the widespread federal law enforcement effort is alarming, the current bipartisan effort to make an unofficial and illegal policy into federal law is a more serious blow to the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.