Bombshell: FBI not the only agency to get Americans to sign away their 2A rights

Bombshell: FBI not the only agency to get Americans to sign away their 2A rights
Courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A secretive scheme that the FBI used on at least a dozen occasions to get Americans to self-report themselves as prohibited persons to the National Instant Check System was more widespread than originally thought, based on new documents obtained by Gun Owners of America.

The Second Amendment organization filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documentation about the form used by the FBI back in 2020, after the form’s existence was first reported on by reporter John Crump. At the time the FOIA request was filed, there was no evidence that the form had actually been used, but GOA sought any information regarding individuals who had declared themselves to be a danger to themselves or others or lacking the “mental capacity to adequately contract or manage” their affairs. Since then the GOA investigation has uncovered at least 15 instances where the NICS Indices Self-Submission form was used, despite serious concerns about whether or not the form is even legal.

Now the GOA has discovered that it wasn’t just the FBI using the forms. At least two other federal agencies worked in cooperation with the FBI on occasion to get individuals to sign the forms; the Secret Service and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. As the Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday, the revelation is attracting the growing attention of Congress and the incoming Republican majority.

Signatories were registered with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and asked to declare that they were a “danger” to themselves or other people or lacking the “mental capacity adequately to contract” their lives. Many of the people targeted by the FBI in the past had reportedly made violent threats on social media, in chat rooms, and in person, internal records show.

“Good evening [redacted],” a Secret Service employee wrote to an FBI employee on March 30, 2018. “Attached is a NICS self-submission form for [redacted] (DOB: [redacted].”

“His USSS case number is 127-679-0044105,” the email continued, noting it was sent from a supervisory protective intelligence research specialist. “If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you.”

The email was attached with a form intended to waive the gun rights of the signatory, records show. The Washington Examiner was unable to verify the date that the form was signed.

Separately, an email from June 4, 2018, also sheds light on the Secret Service’s usage of the form. A Secret Service employee wrote to an FBI employee: “Can you please enter [redacted] into NICS and advise me when it has been entered. Thank you.”

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) told the Washington Examiner he wants to know if more federal agencies have used the NICS forms. The congressman put forth a resolution in November, which Democrats rejected on Wednesday, that would request Attorney General Merrick Garland turn over documents in connection to the forms.

“It’s just really, really concerning,” said Clyde.

“Is Veterans Affairs using this form to try and get veterans to self-report and deny themselves their Second Amendment right?” he asked. “That needs to be discovered. We need to investigate that. In the majority, I think it becomes a valid question and a valid investigation, and I think we need to spotlight that.”

According to the FBI, use of the form was discontinued in December of 2019, though the agency hasn’t said why. It’s also unclear whether that form was replaced by anything similar that might still be use today.

It’s also unclear whether or not these forms are actually legal. Under existing federal law, there is no mechanism to report yourself to NICS as a prohibited person. You’re either disqualified because of court convictions or an adjudication of mental illness, not because the FBI or another alphabet agency shows up at your home and pressures you to sign away your Second Amendment rights.

It may be that every individual who was paid a visit had good reason to be on law enforcement’s radar because of online threats. That still doesn’t mean that the use of this form was legal, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it was effective. Just as “red flag” laws declare a person’s supposed danger to themselves or others to be addressed simply by removing their ability to legally own a gun while leaving the underlying issues unaddressed, the NICS Indices Self-Submission apparently involved no mental health evaluations or even follow-up on the part of any agency.

I know there’s no shortage of scandalous behavior in Washington, D.C. these days, but this is a genuinely troubling program that Gun Owners of America appears to have uncovered. Bringing sunlight to the shadowy circumstances under which this form was used, and uncovering any continued abuses in the same vein, should be a top priority of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees when the GOP takes control next month. Even if this program was put to bed in 2019 as the FBI claims, those responsible for its creation, implementation, and continued operation need to be called out and held to account. As we saw with the investigation into Operation Fast & Furious, often times the calling out is easier than accountability, but that doesn’t mean that the pursuit of both aren’t equally important.