Durbin: Gun lobby doesn't want electronic background checks

Durbin: Gun lobby doesn't want electronic background checks
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (D-Ill.) on Tuesday said the gun lobby does not want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to have an electronic background check system for guns.

Durbin said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on improving school safety that the gun lobby deliberately pushed for the laws that keep the ATF from updating their paper-based gun database.

“The laws in this country are not clear on the subject and they should be crystal clear. So should the laws when it comes to ATF that ties, deliberately ties the hands of this agency with paper records,” Durbin told the committee. “Do you know why they are paper records? Because the gun lobby doesn’t want an electronic background check.”

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Federally licensed gun dealers have to submit sales records to the ATF when they close their businesses.

By some estimates, the ATF gets about 1.6 million paper documents every month. The ATF currently stores thousands of boxes that contain hundreds of millions of paper records.

When the ATF gets daily requests from local and state authorities for assistance on a crime, ATF staffers have to physically comb through the records, which many argue makes it harder to efficiently help law enforcement deter crimes.

Durbin said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE was right to say that Congress is afraid to take on the National Rifle Association (NRA). The senator said he is willing to stand up to the gun group.

“The question we face is whether we are petrified by them,” Durbin said of the NRA. “I’m not. I don’t get their money, I don’t get their support and I don’t care to ever have it.”

He noted that members of the NRA have come up to him to tell him that something needs to be done about gun violence.

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDem senator praises Ford opening the door to testifying Ford opens door to testifying next week Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (D-Vt.) told ATF’s deputy director, Thomas Brandon, at the hearing that Congress is preventing his bureau from effectively doing their jobs by forcing them to use paper records.

“Congress has forced you to act like you’re back in the nineteenth century. You’re prevented from electronically searching for records,” Leahy said.

“When you have to solve crimes, this is what you have to go through,” Leahy said, pointing at a picture of stacked boxes with files.

The senator argued that everything in those boxes could be stored on something the size of a cellphone.