The American Civil Liberties Union has decided to hold off an endorsement of the Senator Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) bill designed to target gun sales at gun shows or via communication on the internet.
The ACLU’s legislative counsel, Chris Calabrese, said that the Toomey-Manchin bill does not trouble the ACLU for the moment on potential patient privacy issues; he said if there is a non-judicial adjudication that a person is “mentally defective” or “has been committed to a mental institution,” this bill would allow that judgment to be reported to the federal government for background check purposes. Calabrese denied that in the ACLU’s interpretation of the bill, doctors would be allowed to report mental health information directly to the federal government without a formal adjudication of some kind. “This reads like a fairly narrow provision, and one we potentially could be okay with because it just talks about an adjudication,” said Calabrese. He added, “Obviously, there are a lot of professionals who deal with mental health issues every day, and if their view is different, we’ll take that into account.”
When it comes to the bill’s restrictions on internet sales, however, Calabrese said that the ACLU would have to drill down before taking a position. The bill clearly states:
it shall be unlawful for any person other than a licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed importer to complete the transfer of a firearm to any other person who is not licensed under this chapter, if such transfer occurs….pursuant to an advertisement, posting, display or other listing on the Internet or in a publication by the transferor of his intent to transfer, or the transferee of his intent to acquire, the firearm.
This suggests that if you call your friend on the phone to sell him a firearm, the background check provisions of the bill may not apply. If, however, you correspond on an open thread website about the purchase of a weapon, you may be prosecuted. This inconsistency is a clear civil liberties problem, given its First Amendment implications.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).