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calendar   Monday - December 01, 2008

It’s a Miracle!! ACLU sides with gun owners!!!

Delaware cops violating federal law, using gun database for wrong reasons




The Delaware State Police have been conducting secret background checks of some gun owners since 2001, a process known as “superchecks” that may violate federal law.  The checks have resulted in confiscation of weapons, some for legitimate reasons, but have subjected many citizens to a search of mental health records that in most cases police would be unable to access.

In Delaware, when someone attempts to purchase a pistol or rifle, he or she must first sign a consent form authorizing a criminal and mental health check by the state Firearms Transaction Approval Program.  These background checks are initiated when a gun dealer calls the firearms unit seeking approval to sell a weapon.

Employees of FTAP conduct about 10,000 background checks a year using computers that link to criminal and court databases and a mental health database maintained by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

Through a request made under the state Freedom of Information Act, The News Journal obtained the results of nearly 4,000 background checks conducted by FTAP from 1998 to 2008 in which gun purchases were denied by state police. The state must destroy records of approved gun purchases within 60 days under a law designed to prevent agencies from compiling lists of gun owners.

he FTAP program was created by lawmakers, and funded by taxpayers, to aid licensed gun dealers, but The News Journal found that more than 10 percent of background checks denied by FTAP were requested by state troopers, not by gun dealers attempting to authorize a legal sale.

None of their superchecks involved gun sales and none of the people checked by state police had signed a written consent form. But all the superchecks, state police said, were gun-related.  Because FTAP checks of legal gun ownership are destroyed, it’s impossible to tell from the data how many superchecks state police routinely conduct. A DHSS spokesman said his agency does not keep a record of the number of times FTAP employees have accessed the state’s mental health database.

“Basically, it’s up to the trooper’s discretion,” said State Police Capt. Galen M. Purcell, director of the State Bureau of Identification. “If they pull someone over and if there are firearms in the car, or they want to make sure they’re not prohibited, they may call the FTAP.”

OK, I get it. It’s “gun related” because the state cop (we call them “Staties” here in NJ) wants to see if somebody is prohibited from owning a gun. Uh huh. So guns don’t have to even be present, all you need is a nosy flatfoot.

Purcell described the superchecks as “one-stop shopping.”

“They hit all appropriate databases; criminal history, Department of Motor Vehicles, and it’s also linked to DHSS,” he said.

Drewry Fennell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware, said that in the context of federal law, someone’s mental health history is surrounded by “robust protections.”

“There’s a clear directive that they’re not supposed to be used for general law enforcement purposes,” Fennell said. “There are a couple of exceptions in the regulations, but there is no exception to support a general law enforcement query.”

Wow, this must have turned the ACLU inside out. They HAD to choose to support either gun owners or the police on this one. Antacids for everyone!

Ron Honberg is national director of policy and legal affairs for the National Association of Mental Illness, the country’s largest advocacy organization for people with mental illness.

Superchecks, Honberg said, are “excessive and unnecessary.”

“It sounds like a potential abuse of authority,” he said. “It creates a jeopardy that this type of information could be used for all sorts of purposes.”

State politicians have moved into Emergency CYA mode:

When the firearms unit was created, the debate in the House was “strictly about purchases, not enforcement,” said House Minority Leader Richard C. Cathcart, R-Middletown. “It seems to me this violates—at a minimum—the intent of the legislation.”

Cathcart, who received an “A+” rating from the NRA before his recent re-election, said the supercheck process needs a quick statutorial fix.

“Obviously, there is a right to bear arms, but the way this is being applied, basically they’re saying it’s a privilege, and they have a right to take away that privilege from people,” Cathcart said. “I have a huge problem with this.”

House Majority Leader Peter C. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a retired state police captain who received an “F” grade from the NRA, doesn’t understand why troopers need to check gun owners through the firearms unit.

“That’s wrong,” he said. “I don’t understand that process because a trooper or a police officer has access to a computer with the same capability as the firearms unit.”

The article goes on, mentioning the case of the 81 year old granny denied the right to buy a gun because she was old, and female. It also shows how some of the reasons for denial were rather sketchy. You can read the whole thing here.

I’d like to be able to blame this Police State kind of behavior on a general reaction to terrorism, but that isn’t really the case. This program, an perhaps this behavior, has been in place since the early 90s, nearly a decade before the Patriot Act or anything like that. No, this is just Jack Booted Thuggery, another example of unchecked power leading to unchecked abuses. And by coincidence in a Democrat controlled state. And if you think it’s any better now that the police have become some kind of paramilitary organization across the country, SWAT teams and machine guns all over the place, with instant access to all sorts of data right from their patrol cars or Blackberrys, then guess again. This is just the smallest peek behind the curtain. “reasonable suspicion” and “suspected intent” now translate into “because I could” and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it. Prove you aren’t a loony to be allowed to exercise your 2A rights, then have any and every cop in the country looking at your mental health records whenever they feel like it. HIPPA be damned ... and you can’t prove they aren’t accessing your regular health records either. Or your income tax records. Or any government records of any kind. Or you credit card bills. What the hell, talk to Joe the Plumber about that government snooping. In the false hope of security we’ve created a digital monster; you don’t even have the illusion of privacy any more. Stories like this just point to the very edges of the reality as far as I’m concerned. If your data was protected and honored, you’d see thousands of government employees getting fired for snooping, all the time. And that is not happening.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 12/01/2008 at 09:53 PM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun ControlJack Booted Thugs •  
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