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Universal background checks are backdoor registration and maybe ban

For weeks, I've tried to explain to people that any "universal background check" needs to have a provision that would demand the destruction of any data collected during the background check, including that the check itself was run. Upon reflection, I didn't go far enough. The rules of what would make one fail the background check also need to be laid out, and well-defined.

I work in Information Technology, and specifically in Storage and Backup. It's what I do in my "real job". I know that no one destroys data anymore. Generally, everything is kept forever. The reasons are simple; you can't easily get data back once it's gone, and keeping data provides legal defense against claims in what otherwise be a he-said-she-said situation.

Businesses keep transactional databases, a log of recent purchses, and then warehouse that data. That's how Amazon can make suggestions to you, based on what you've bought and even what you've just looked at. When used for "good", that sort of technology is great. It's how Amazon knows I might be interested in a front porch mat that says "Come back with a warrant", or a book on running non-profit organizations. Instead of browsing thousands of products, they know my general interests based on my purchase history.

But there are also nefarious ways this data can be used. We've all heard the stories of credit card information being stolen from retailers. Less reputable sellers will re-sell your email address or other personal information to companies who resell your information to email spammers.

So, when there's talk about a universal background check, I have to automatically think of what the collected information could be used for. Government could search a database of all people who went through the firearm background check process, thus they'd have a registration database of everyone who tried to buy a gun. They might not, but they could. In fact, I'm not entirely sure that they're not already doing that today. I've heard rumors that one of the major purchaser of storage in the 1990s was the ATF -- and certainly they weren't creating a database of everyone who still grows tobacco, were they?

And that's enough to make me throw a red flag. Any plan for background checks must also have a provision to require the destruction of any audit trail of that background check being performed, and include criminal penalties for failing to do so.

And despite some nay-saying this -- even some of my political allies on the subject -- the ACLU recently came out and agreed, that the current proposal in the Senate would violate the privacy of Americans seeking to buy a firearm, and even say that the proposal is "almost" registration.

So, I think I've been proven correct on that.

But as I thought about it more, this could just be a backdoor ban, too. If the provisions of the background check are left vague, the bureaucracy could enact rules that create a de facto ban, whereby almost everyone fails the background check.

So in addition to requiring the destruction of the audit trail, we also need to have clearly-defined items to be discovered in the background check, and to clearly define what will cause people to fail the background check. We cannot leave this to the bureaucracy to define.

Even if the bureaucracy doesn't define anything onerous today, there are clear examples of how such powers are abused. At the federal level, the scope of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, passed in the early 1970s. have been expanded in scope by the bureaucracy. At the state level, laws meant to stop the spread of diseases like swine flu and polio have been expanded to allow health departments to ban indoor smoking (that's still being appealed).

That's why the proposed "background check" bill in the US Senate should be vehemently opposed. Unless provisions are made to limit data collection, and to clearly-define what would cause one to fail such a background check, it cannot be allowed to pass. We should not hand any more this country over to bureaucrats.