New gun buyers are being asked to disclose race and ethnicity in a policy change that critics say amounts to racial profiling.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) amended its Form 4473 in 2012 to make gun buyers identify as either Hispanic, Latino or not and then disclose their race as Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white.
Gun retailers told the Washington Times that if the buyer fails to mark a box it is considered an ATF violation, even though it is not required by law to disclose race to buy a gun.
Industry officials say they’re concerned about how the information will be used.
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“This issue concerns me deeply because, first, it’s offensive, and, secondly, there’s no need for it,” Evan Nappen, a private practice firearms lawyer in New Jersey, told The Times. “If there’s no need for an amendment, then there’s usually a political reason for the change. What this indicates is it was done for political reasons, not law enforcement reasons.”
The ATF said the policy change brought its forms up to compliance with an Office of Management and Budget standard that went into effect during Bill Clinton’s administration.
“OMB’s race and ethnicity standards require agencies to ask both race and ethnicity in a specific manner (as done on [Form 4473]), and agencies may not ask for one without asking for the other,” ATF spokesperson Elizabeth Gosselin said in an emailed response to The Times.
Laura Murphy, the American Civil Liberties Union director, says the OMB guideline was supposed to be implemented by 2003. It is unclear why the ATF waited nearly a decade after the deadline to make the change.
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“There is nothing [in ATF or OMB’s website links addressing the change in policy] that supports the requirement that ATF collect race-based information," Murphy said. "The OMB guidance merely describes what categories of race should look like if information is collected."
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Marcin Wichary, The Washington Times / Kelly Riddell