President Biden Does Not Want to Take Your Guns Away | Opinion

For decades, one of the most tried and true scare tactics by the gun lobby is that the government—specifically Democrats—are coming for your guns. These misinformation campaigns have been used for years to scare law-abiding Americans into thinking they are going to be put under government surveillance to confiscate their guns.

Let's be crystal clear—the Biden administration has no secret plan to take away your guns.

While some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have carried the water for the gun lobby over many years, there has been a recent uptick in letters and statements to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which falsely claim there is a "backdoor gun registry." Although this is patently false, right-wing media continues to amplify this lie.

Fox News' Laura Ingraham, whose nightly viewership often eclipses 3 million people, incorrectly claimed that "the U.S. government is storing just under 1 billion gun purchase files and digitizing them, presumably for searchability down the road. ... This massive log of gun purchases, it's not a significant leap toward the ultimate goal of a national gun registry." This unfounded conspiracy theory does nothing more than help the gun lobby continue to sell guns and ammunition.

In fact, a top gun manufacturer lobbyist himself recently tweeted that he toured the ATF's crime gun trace center and concluded that the ATF "does not maintain an illegal gun registry."

Current law plainly states the uses and limitations of ATF's records system, including requirements that all gun stores maintain records of firearm sales. When a gun store goes out of business, its records must be transferred to the ATF for use in tracing guns used in crimes. Tracing occurs through an ATF records system called OBRIS—Out of Business Records Imaging System—which is accessed only after a crime occurs and data is requested from a law enforcement entity. One third of all crime gun traces are conducted on OBRIS, making it an essential law enforcement tool to keeping our streets safe.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks
President Joe Biden delivers remarks. Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Under the George W. Bush administration, ATF began digitizing paper records in its collection into non-searchable images, a process that continued through both Democratic and Republican administrations alike. In fact, nearly 66 percent of record digitization from the entire ATF database occurred under the Trump administration.

The simple truth is that a gun registry does not exist and is not even being contemplated to illegally track law abiding individuals who exercise their Second Amendment rights.

With the real threat of rising crime, the American people demand solutions that keep their families and communities safe. Luckily, President Joe Biden has responded to these calls by nominating Steve Dettelbach to become the next ATF director. The president also recently finalized a rule to require that ghost guns—privately made firearms without serial numbers that are challenging to trace to a crime scene—finally be regulated as weapons.

Members of Congress must continue this work by acting on bipartisan solutions that make an actual difference—like establishing a National Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House, investing in Community Violence Intervention Programs that remove illegal guns used in domestic firearm violence incidents and holding the gun industry directly accountable for negligent sales of firearms and ammunition.

It is irresponsible to use false conspiracies to curb this essential work. Neither the president nor the newly nominated ATF director want to take your guns away and there is no such thing as a gun registry. And it is incumbent upon the vast majority of Americans who care about the truth rather than conspiracy clickbait to push back on dis- and misinformation that harms public safety.

Rep. Eric Swalwell represents California's 15th Congressional District and serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Homeland Security Committee.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.