Gun collectors, beware. Certain Members of Congress believe if an individual buys too many guns, too much ammunition or too many accessories, that person is a potentially dangerous criminal or a “domestic terrorist.”
They also want banks to tell on anyone who might be buying too much.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), and Jennifer Wexton, (D-Va.) introduced The Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act, H.R. 5764, in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate as S. 3117. The legislation is troublesome because the politicians authoring it pitch it as a means to detect and prevent those who might be planning to commit an atrocity or terror attack. The bill is fraught with civil liberty violations and not just those freedoms protected by the Second Amendment. Privacy rights – specifically those related to finances – would go by the wayside.
The bill would require the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) to give guidance to banks so they can report “suspicious financial activity.” According to Sen. Markey, this undefined suspicious financial activity could be a warning sign an individual is planning a horrific crime or terror event.
“We cannot allow banks and financial institutions to turn a blind eye as shooters bank a pile of guns and ammunition in a lead up to an attack,” Sen. Markey said in a press statement. “The Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act will give us the guidance on how these institutions can help pinpoint and prevent gun violence across the country.”
The proposed legislation doesn’t define what level of financial activity is suspicious or how many firearms and accessories is “too many” or how much ammunition is “too much.” Instead, it leaves that to be determined by Treasury Department officials. In other words, these Members of Congress would delegate the work defining what would allow the government to peer inside banking records. Those Treasury Department bureaucrats would provide “guidance” to banks to report that “suspicious” activity. Media report gun seizures of several guns as “arsenals,” making anyone owning more than two or three guns seem suspect.
Like all Americans, those in the firearm industry are concerned about terrorism. Licensed retailers cooperate with law enforcement all the time and report suspicious activity. However, this bill is similar to the federal government snooping around libraries and bookstores to see what books people are reading and what websites are visited. It is a deeply troubling intrusion into the civil liberties of gun owners and the exercise of their Second Amendment rights that should trouble all Americans.
This legislation should be recognized for what it is – another attempt by lawmakers to circumvent civil rights and co-opting financial institutions to advance an anti-gun agenda. The Obama administration illegally coerced banks to unlawfully discriminate against the firearm industry through Operation Chokepoint. That was the effort by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to pressure financial institutions to stop lending and providing banking services to firearm-related businesses by labelling those business “high risk” despite having no evidence or justification. Now, Congressional gun control advocates would order banks to spy on their customers for them.
Tried Before, Trying Again
Rep. Wexton and Rep. Dean introduced similar legislation in the last Congress. Their bill was H.R. 5132, the Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act, that Rep. Wexton explained to voters in a town hall would explore “whether credit card transactions could be used as a warning tool for mass shootings,” according to The Prince Williams Times. That was an idea that Shannon Watts endorsed. She, of course, is the head of antigun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action. Watts authored an op-ed in Business Insider pressuring credit card companies to deny purchases for firearm parts, to stem the sale of what she termed “ghost guns.”
It was also an idea that failed presidential and Senate candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke wanted to pursue, after he learned about it from The New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote about it in 2018 and 2017.
The bill is also coming on the heels of the Biden administration being forced to step back from a proposal to monitor financial transactions on every American above $600 on every American bank account. NSSF warned that this was a bad omen for an administration bent on enforcing their radical gun control plan, even if it means sacrificing privacy rights.
Rep. Wexton’s bill moved nowhere in the last Congress. NSSF is working to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere in this one.
Larry Keane is the senior vice-president for government and public affairs, assistant secretary and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.