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Congressional Research Service, "Gun Control Legislation," November 14, 2012

Congressional Research Service, "Gun Control Legislation," November 14, 2012

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Published by Joel Lawson
"Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control...This report also includes discussion of other salient and recurring gun control issues that have
generated past or current congressional interest...To set these and other emerging issues in context, this report provides basic
firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal firearms law, and a summary of legislative action in the 111th and 112th Congresses."
"Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control...This report also includes discussion of other salient and recurring gun control issues that have
generated past or current congressional interest...To set these and other emerging issues in context, this report provides basic
firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal firearms law, and a summary of legislative action in the 111th and 112th Congresses."

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Published by: Joel Lawson on Dec 18, 2012
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When Congress passed the Brady Act in 1994, the use of terrorist watch lists during firearms-
related background checks was not considered. As a consequence, the Attorney General has no
specific statutory authority to screen prospective gun buyers against terrorist watch list records.
Nevertheless, the FBI adopted procedures to do this because being on such a list suggests that
there may be an underlying factor that would bar a prospective background check applicant from
possessing a firearm. Hence, a possible issue for Congress could be whether terrorist watch list
checks should be incorporated statutorily into the Brady background checks for firearms.

In addition, a proviso attached to the FY2005 DOJ annual appropriation and every year thereafter
requires that NICS-generated approved firearms transaction records be destroyed within 24
hours.357

Nevertheless, as described above, the FBI has been retaining approved firearms
transaction records for up to 90 days, if those records are related to terrorist watch list hits.
Furthermore, information on the subjects of those checks are passed on to FBI investigators in the
field. While the NICS records are eventually destroyed for non-denials, it is unknown what
happens to the information generated by NICS-related terrorist watch list hits that are passed on
to the FBI CTD and Special Agents in the field, who are usually assigned to Joint Terrorism Task
Forces. Information about those firearms transactions is possibly recorded and stored
electronically in the FBI’s investigative case files.

In the Brady Act, however, there is a provision that prohibits the (1) transfer of any Brady system
record to any other federal or state agency, or (2) the use of the Brady system as a national
registry of firearms or firearms owners.358

In light of the former prohibition, a second issue for

354

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Gun Control and Terrorism: FBI Could Better Manage Firearm-Related
Background Checks Involving Terrorist Watch List Records
, GAO-05-127, January 2005, p. 32.

355

28 C.F.R. §25.9(b)(1)(iii).

356

28 C.F.R. §25.9(b)(1)(ii).

357

For FY2009, see §511 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, (P.L. 111-8, 123 Stat. 596). For FY2010, see also
§511 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117, 123 Stat. 3151). For FY2011, the Department of
Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10) carried this requirement forward from
FY2010. For FY2012, The Minibus Appropriations Act (H.R. 2112) includes a §511 that not only includes the “24
hour” destruction requirement, but it also includes “futurity” language, which makes the provision permanent law, as
opposed to an annual appropriations restriction. The President has signed this bill into law (P.L. 112-55).

358

For example, subsection 103(i) of the Brady Act (P.L. 103-159; 107 Stat. 1542) includes the following provision:
PROHIBITION RELATING TO ESTABLISHMENT OF REGISTRATION SYSTEMS WITH RESPECT TO
(continued...)

Gun Control Legislation

Congressional Research Service

83

Congress could be whether to grant the FBI greater authority to maintain and access NICS
records for the purposes of counterterrorism, or should existing statutory limitations that were
arguably designed to prevent the maintenance of and access to such records be strengthened. In
light of the first two issues, it follows that a third issue for Congress could be whether the
Attorney General should be given explicit authority to deny firearms transfers to watch-listed
persons on a case-by-case basis, or should all known or suspected terrorists be statutorily
prohibited from possessing firearms and explosives.359

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