Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) are essentially accusing the ATF of racism with their FIREARM Act. The ATF, it turns out, asks information on race in the paperwork a gun buyer has to fill out, and it is a troubling accusation. But one sees more than a few ridiculous questions in the questions asked in Form 4473. “Are you a fugitive from justice?”, “Are you an alien illegally in the United States?” are two examples. Maybe, just maybe, a really dumb buyer who is also a criminal or illegal, answered yes to those questions. Maybe the criminal didn’t fill out a form in a licensed dealer’s store when he bought his weapon in a back alley from a fellow drug dealer, say.

How long has this been going on? Quite a while in fact. Since 1968. The way the game works is the store owners keep the buyer profile – is there any other way to describe this information other than profiling? – on file in case that information needs to be used in an investigation. If the store owner fails to comply, they could be shut down. So the ATF gets the gun dealerships to act as an outsourced bureaucracy charged with maintaining an on-demand data base. And it all started in a year marked by riots and other political violence, some of it race-based. From the other side of the aisle, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told The Hill that “there is a limited place for race and ethnic data in situations that don’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.” That’s a measured response to profiling on something as important, and yes controversial, as Second Amendment Rights. Does the ATF really need to keep those questions on Form 4473? And will other voices from Senator Booker’s side of the aisle also speak up on this issue?