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ACLU expressed 'significant concerns' about Harry Reid's gun bill

Published: Thursday, April 4 2013 2:55 p.m. MDT

In this March 14, 2013 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Gun control legislation the Senate debates next month will include an expansion of federal background checks for firearms buyers, Reid said Thursday, March 21, 2013, in a victory for advocates of gun restrictions.

Associated Press

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The National Rifle Association has expressed many concerns about gun regulation laws, but the latest opposition comes from an unexpected source: the American Civil Liberties Union.

The American Civil Liberties Union said a gun bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on March 22 mandating background checks could infringe on Americans' civil liberties and privacy rights.

S 649 would mandate a universal background check for all gun sales, but the records maintained in background checks for private sales could be retained, which the ACLU says would be a violation of privacy rights.

The ACLU does not oppose Reid's bill as a whole; the group just has "significant concerns" about the language of the bill, said Chris Calabrese, a privacy lobbyist with the ACLU.

The first concern is the bill treats records for unlicensed gun sales differently than purchases made through unlicensed sellers.

Calabrese said when approved sellers use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, they destroy most of the obtained records within 24 hours, and all the records must be destroyed within 90 days. Reid's proposal doesn't have any such requirement for universal background checks when it comes to unlicensed gun sales.

"We believe the Reid proposal needs to have those same standards," Calabrese told the Deseret News.

The second concern is this could be the first step toward making a national gun registry, which the ACLU would oppose for privacy reasons.

The White House has denied pursuing a national gun registry, according to the Daily Caller, but Calabrese said that could be an indirect result of the language of the bill.

“[U]nfortunately, we have seen in the past that the creation of these types of records leads sometimes to the creation of government databases and collections of personal information on all of us,” Calabrese told the Daily Caller. “That’s not an inevitable result, but we have seen that happen in the past, certainly.”

The ACLU has no problem with universal background checks as long as the records are taken care of and privacy rights are preserved.

"If you're going to do a background check, it makes sense to do an effective background check," Calabrese said.

EMAIL: kardmore@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: Katie Ardmore

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