NRA: Rand Paul’s Patriot Act Amendment Sucked


From Rachel Parsons [above] of the NRA:

As often happens with complex issues, [the] NRA’s position on Sen. Rand Paul’s defeated PATRIOT Act amendment is being mis-reported by those who either don’t understand the facts, or prefer their own version of “facts.”

This amendment was rejected by 85 Senators, which included many of the strongest Second Amendment supporters in the U.S. Senate.  Unfortunately, Senator Paul chose not to approach us on this issue before moving ahead. His amendment, which only received 10 votes, was poorly drafted and could have resulted in more problems for gun owners than it attempted to fix. For this reason, the NRA did not take a position on the amendment.

To be more specific about the amendment and its problems, the amendment would have prohibited use of PATRIOT Act legal authority for any “investigation or procurement of firearms records which is not authorized under [the Gun Control Act].” There have been no reports of the current PATRIOT Act being abused with respect to firearms records, however supporters suggested a far-fetched scenario in which every firearms sales record in the country–tens or hundreds of millions of documents dating back to 1968–could be sought.  Again, we nor anyone else is aware of any case in which this authority has been used to abuse gun owners.  (In fact, published reports indicate that few of these orders are ever sought for any reason.)

In particular, the amendment appeared to be aimed at so-called “section 215 letters”–orders from the FBI requiring the disclosure of “tangible things” such as records and documents.

Under the current PATRIOT Act, an application for this type of order with respect to firearms sales records has to be approved no lower than the director or deputy director of the FBI, or the Executive Assistant Director for National Security.  The application is made to a federal judge based on “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation … to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”  The judge has the power to modify the order and must direct the use of “minimization procedures” to protect the privacy of Americans.

If the Paul amendment were adopted, the FBI would have used other ways to access whatever firearms records it might need for intelligence or anti-terrorism investigations. This is especially troublesome for gun owners.

This would result in United States Attorneys simply demanding the same records through grand jury subpoenas, which require no judicial approval before issuance. Fighting a subpoena after the fact can be very costly and carries legal risks of its own, including possible charges for obstruction of justice.

Even worse, the government would have used the Gun Control Act’s provision that allows the Attorney General to “inspect or examine the inventory and records of [a licensee] without … reasonable cause or warrant” during a criminal investigation.  That means by simply characterizing its activities as a “criminal investigation,” it would enter a licensee’s premises and demand these records without “reasonable cause or warrant”–in other words, without judicial oversight of any kind, and without any of the procedural limits imposed by the PATRIOT Act.

Therefore, given all of these potential problems for gun owners, the NRA could not support this poorly drafted amendment.

Questions. One: where is the text of this amendment? And two: why is this horrible, unconstitutional piece of legislation still alive anyway?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

6 Responses to NRA: Rand Paul’s Patriot Act Amendment Sucked

  1. avatarDave says:

    It’s still alive because as a nation we’ve become a fearful, terrorized people. Sadly, it looks like the terrorists won. Sure, we killed Osama, but not before wrecking much of what made our nation great in an effort to avoid highly unlikely terrorist attacks. It’s doubly pathetic when compared to how we dealt with the Cold War; back them we had an enemy that had the ability to burn the whole world in nuclear fire, compared to some primitives who’s best effort kills a small fraction of the number we kill every year in traffic accidents.

  2. avatarRobert says:

    If I remember right, NRA executive Wayne LaPierre once called Harry Reid a “true champion of the Second Amendment.” So what we’ve learned here is that the NRA wouldn’t do something “crazy” like oppose the status quo. Yep, that would be crazy–fewer party innvotations…

  3. avatarRes Publica Americana says:

    Consider that the Constitution of the United States, the supreme law of the republic, explicitly forbids searches and seizures of information and property without probable cause and warrants. Any law that contravenes this standard, contravenes constitutional law, is wholly null and void. Why the holy fuck are these abhorrent pieces of shit still treated as enforceable legislation?

    • avatarTodd AFVet says:

      Because they may never have been fought in court, or the courts decided that the 1934 WCA or 1968 GCA allows for this as part of the FFL process and oversight. I agree, the ““inspect or examine the inventory and records of [a licensee] without … reasonable cause or warrant” during a criminal investigation” is just asking for a court case to be taken all the way but I can tell you know that they will claim that as a condition of the license the FFL gives up there this protection.

  4. avatarVincit Veritas says:

    Have there been legal challenges to the patriot act in any of the appeals courts? Always seemed destined for the SC but it’s been quite a while now

  5. avatarRalph says:

    I can’t say with certainty whether Paul’s amendment sucked or not, since I haven’t read the damn thing and can’t seem to find it. But since 85% of the Senate voted against it, I’m led inexorably to the conclusion that the amendment was good.

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