Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) compared universal background checks to the government spying on American eating and reading habits during an appearance on Fox News on Friday.
The conservative Tea Party favorite is part of a growing number of Republicans who have pledged to filibuster any gun safety package that includes the provision. The group claims that requiring private dealers to maintain records of the checks they conduct would lead to the creation of a government database or registry of all gun owners.
“[T]he concern with those is that background checks in and of themselves aren’t going to work unless they are accompanied by some sort of registration system,” Lee said. The American people “are not really comfortable with the idea of the government knowing exactly what firearm they purchase any more than they would be comfortable with the government knowing when or how often they go to church or what they eat for breakfast or what books they are reading from the library,” he claimed.
But this description is a gross misrepresentation of the legislation. Background check proposals being floated in Congress would require private sellers and buyers “to meet in person with a licensed dealer, where the dealer would check the buyer against the federal database for a fee.” The dealer would retain “a record of the sale” but would not send the information to the government, since current law prohibits the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from establishing a national registry.
The dealer record-keeping provision ensures that checks are in fact being conducted and would allow the entire chain of custody to be reconstructed in the event the gun is later recovered in a crime. Currently, 60 percent of gun buyers who shop at licensed gun dealers undergo background checks and the gun stores are “required to keep a basic record of the transaction.”