Next time you plan to attend a gun show, it might be better to ride along with a friend.
According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has on multiple occasions used local police departments to scan license plates at gun shows in an effort to collect and record information on gun show attendees.
The Journal reviewed a series of 2010 emails between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and police departments in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, near the Mexican border. In the emails, federal agents persuade local police to use license plate readers to randomly scan cars at local gun shows. The agency planned to cross-reference that data with cars crossing the Mexican border to find and prosecute gun smugglers.
It gets better. According to the Journal, the emails indicated that this strategy could have been employed elsewhere around the country. ICE has no policy that dictates the use of license plate readers, and nothing would have kept them from continuing the practice from 2010 until now.
Needless to say, the report has upset privacy watchdogs and firearms enthusiasts alike.
Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, told the Journal that his group opposes such surveillance. “Information on law-abiding gun owners ends up getting recorded, stored, and registered, which is a violation of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act and of the Second Amendment,” he said.
What ICE doesn’t seem to realize is that—contrary to what the Clinton campaign would have us believe—gun shows are not hotbeds of criminal activity. Quite the opposite, in fact.
According to an NIJ study released in December 1997 (“Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities”), only 2 percent of criminal guns come from gun shows. The vast majority of firearms for sale at gun shows are being offered by federally licensed gun dealers. These individuals must ensure that each of their customers passes a background check, which prohibits most known criminals as well as illegal immigrants from purchasing firearms.
This is probably why, according to the Journal, “There is no indication the gun-show surveillance led to any arrests or investigative leads.”
Surprise, surprise. No one actually familiar with gun shows would think to target attendees in an effort to locate criminals. Maybe instead of invading the privacy of law-abiding gun show patrons, ICE should use its taxpayer dollars to target straw purchasers and criminals who steal firearms, both more likely sources of illegal guns than random gun show attendees.