Fact Check: The Gun Registry Red Herring
Obama has not proposed a federal gun registry, which is currently barred under federal law. But LaPierre’s words-part fact, part falsehood, part paranoia-require careful parsing.
First the background: On January 16, Obama proposed a number of new gun control measures, including a new requirement “to require background checks for all firearm sales, with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes.” The existing background check system requires new gun buyers to have their identities checked against an FBI database, called the NICS, to make sure they are neither felons nor mentally unfit under federal law. No records of buyer names or identities are retained. Under the White House proposal, all gun sales, with certain exceptions, would have to include a NICS check.
What’s more, the White House has clearly said Obama wants to carve out an exception for “cases like certain transfers between family members.” Though the specifics have yet to be unveiled, the Christmas gift from grandpa to grandson that LaPierre describes is unlikely to require a background check for the grandson.
So why does LaPierre claim that Obama wants a national federal registry for guns?
A spokesman for the NRA points me to comments that Obama made as a state senator in 2001, in an interview with the Chicago Defender. “Too many of these guns end up in the hands of criminals even though they were originally purchased by people who did not have a felony,” Obama said then. “I’ll continue to be in favor of handgun law registration requirements and licensing requirements for training.”
There is no record that Obama ever proposed such a registry on the federal level. In fact, during his first national campaign in January of 2008, Obama was asked about a federal firearm registry during a debate, and he basically ruled it out.