From Our “Unifying” Government: Revised Gun Form Creates Profiling Opportunities and Other Misuses of Data

It may have taken 15 years for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to amend its gun-purchasing form and another two years for it to make news, but news it should be.

Form 4473 requires gun purchasers to identify themselves as being either Hispanic, Latino or not and also to choose the appropriate race from among Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white. While gun dealers interviewed by the Washington Times said that the law does not require disclosure of race to buy a gun, to not comply is considered an ATF violation.1

That the “OMB’s (Office of Management and Budget) race and ethnicity standards require agencies to ask both race and ethnicity in a specific manner, and agencies may not ask for one without asking for the other,”2 does not soften this invasion of privacy.


To attempt making sense of this policy, the origins of this data-tracking should be given. In 1997, the OMB issued a revision to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data. The ethnicity and race classifications were to be used in the 2000 Census and “other federal programs should adopt the standards as soon as possible, but not later than January 1, 2003, for use in household surveys, administrative forms and records, and other data collections. In its Supplementary Information the notice stated, “Data were needed to monitor equal access in housing, education, employment, and other areas, for populations that historically had experienced discrimination and differential treatment because of their race or ethnicity.”3 The Obama Administration’s tremendous dislike of the Second Amendment makes “equal access” an unlikely motivation here!

So, where does this leave us?

It leaves us subject to data gathering that is out of control, but we already knew that from other federal examples.

This arrogance of this policy was summed up by Evan Nappen, a private practice firearms lawyer in New Jersey, to The Times, “This issue concerns me deeply because, first, it’s offensive and, secondly, there’s no need for it. 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.”1

From an Administration which shows nothing but disregard for our Constitution, at least it’s consistent.

1 – from “New Policy States That Gun Buyers Should Declare Their Race, Ethnicity,” by Sarah Fruchtnicht, 9/17/2014,
2 – ATF spokesperson Elizabeth Gosselin’s emailed response to the Washington Times,” Ibid.
3 – Federal Register notice of October 30, 1997


2 thoughts on “From Our “Unifying” Government: Revised Gun Form Creates Profiling Opportunities and Other Misuses of Data

  1. Certainly I wish the government would stop trying to divide us into identity groups (in employment and everything else, now apparently including firearms ownership), but what do you think the actual motivation for this change is?

    • We have many reasons to question our federal government’s motivation! Even without that, as a society we need to overcome our subconscious belief that we are morally required to comply anytime anyone asks us for personal information. Such information is private and the burden of proof is always on the person requesting it, not the individual wishing to decline.

      For example, the marketing dept. of a seller of “male enhancement” products may ask how often a couple has sex. But this info. does not have to be given even though it appears to be related to our purchase. Same goes for a close friend’s curiosity. However, if a marriage counselor asks, then it should be revealed as it is part of a service we requested.

      So, the ATF should only be concerned if someone is legally able to purchase something. Of course, it may enact requirements which are inappropriate, but that is another issue to be dealt with. We can be sure that it is not asking in order to make certain that all ethnic groups have equal access to weapons which the Administration feels the Constitution is wrong about. 🙂

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