Gabe Kaminsky of the Washington Examiner has been doing a great job of covering the scandalous use of a secret form used by the FBI and Secret Service that compelled individuals to “voluntarily” give up their right to keep and bear arms during the Obama and Trump administration. Thanks to Gun Owners of America’s invaluable work in uncovering these documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, we know that the form was used on at least 60 individuals, and now Kaminsky reports that in at least one case the form appeared to have been used as plea bargain bait.
The U.S. government conditioned a plea agreement with a defendant stipulating they sign a secret form, which was not authorized through Congress and has been slammed as “unconstitutional” by Republican lawmakers, that stripped their rights to buy, own, or use firearms, documents show.
Between 2011 and 2019, the FBI, Secret Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement coordinated to obtain signatures on an internal form from at least 60 U.S. citizens that stripped their gun rights, according to newly obtained records and multiple Washington Examiner reports. In at least one instance, the bureau and Secret Service worked behind closed doors with what appears to be a government prosecutor who conditioned signing of the form as part of a legal case, the Washington Examiner has learned.
“Dear Agent [redacted],” reads a June 10, 2019, letter written by a lawyer to a Secret Service agent in West Palm Beach, Florida. “You will find enclosed the NICS firearm form which has been signed by my client and his doctor. This is being provided in compliance with [redacted] plea agreement. Yours sincerely.”
It’s unclear what the 2019 defendant was being charged with or why the FBI and Secret Service had involvement. The FBI redacted the case number on the document, which was obtained by the firearms rights group Gun Owners of America through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the Washington Examiner.
There are still some very basic questions about the form’s existence that have not been answered by the FBI or the Secret Service, including what agency developed the form and why it was put into use without any Congressional notification. Well, actually I think we know the answer to that last question. Given that there is no provision in federal law allowing someone to voluntarily give up their Second Amendment rights and prohibit themselves from passing a NICS check, there’s good reason why these agencies wanted to keep congressional watchdogs and the general public about the existence of these forms.
The person who signed the plea agreement was evidently not barred from owning guns until voluntarily signing the FBI’s form and the government asked the defendant to agree to a punishment comparable with a different type of crime, said [GOA outside counsel Robert] Olson. Lawyers have previously honed in on how the form did not go through public comment through the Office of Management and Budget, which is required before the government collects information from the public.
“There’s a bit of a contradiction,” Gilbert Ambler, a constitutional attorney who specializes in firearms law, told the Washington Examiner. “They’re having you agree you’re incompetent. If you’re incompetent, how is that a binding agreement?”
Ambler added, “It’s an example of something more nefarious, which is individuals within the government pursuing a goal of disarming people. That is not something supported by our legislature. In fact, it is contrary to what our legislature has done because there are set forth conditions on when somebody can be disarmed.”
It seems to me that the use of this form would be reason enough to invalidate the entire plea deal, but the defendant would have to be the one to raise that particular issue to the courts. So far none of the at least 60 individuals who signed away their Second Amendment rights have come forward, but House Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan has vowed to investigate how these forms came to be, how widely they were used, when and why they were discontinued, and whether the same form or something similar is still being used today. I know there’s a lot of scandalous behavior in the federal government to dig into these days, but shining some sunlight on this shady exercise in Big Brother bureaucracy should be a top priority for Republicans on Capitol Hill.