Race is a hot issue as of late (truthfully race has been a hot issue throughout the history of the United States). Between the propensity of police officers in certain cities targeting people of certain races with much higher frequency and whether or not there’s enough diversity in the technology market everybody is talking about race. That’s probably why the Washington Times is finally asking why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is asking everybody purchasing a gun from a federally licensed dealer what their race is:
With little fanfare, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in 2012 amended its Form 4473 — the transactional record the government requires gun purchasers and sellers to fill out when buying a firearm — to identify buyers as either Hispanic, Latino or not. Then a buyer must check his or her race: Indian, Asian, black, Pacific Islander or white.
The amendment is causing a headache for gun retailers, as each box needs to be checked off or else it’s an ATF violation — severe enough for the government to shut a business down. Many times people skip over the Hispanic/Latino box and only check their race, or vice versa — both of which are federal errors that can be held against the dealer.
Requiring the race and ethnic information of gun buyers is not required by federal law and provides little law enforcement value, legal experts say. And gun industry officials worry about how the information is being used and whether it constitutes an unnecessary intrusion on privacy.
I have two theories regarding this. My first theory has to do with Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF operation to smuggle guns to Mexican drug cartels. Perhaps asking whether the gun purchaser is Hispanic is a way to speed up searches for Fast and Furious-related firearms. OK, I’m partially joking about that. My actual theory is that the ATF is demanding to know each buyer’s race for the same reason it asks each buyer if they’re prohibited form owning a firearm: the government likes to collect information redundantly. When you submit to a background check your personal information, including full legal name and current address, are submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). That information should be enough for the FBI to do a search for you in its database. If your name comes up all of your identifying information is already available to the agency since it was recorded during your arrest or involuntarily confinement to a mental health ward.
It’s the same stupidity that forces you to fill out paperwork when filing your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) already has all of the information it need to send you a bill since your employer is so helpful to withhold taxes from your paycheck. There’s no need for you to fill out any tax forms other than deductions. But the IRS isn’t efficient by anybody’s regard so it demands you provide it with the information it already has access to because that’s how government works.