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Paul gets two amendment votes, but the PATRIOT Act spy powers will remain largely unaffected

May 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] has introduced several amendments to the PATRIOT ACT reauthorization bill that would add oversight to the government’s spying powers and rein in their abuses, but it’s his amendment to give gun owners special protections that he seems to care about most. According to reports, Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Paul are closing in on a deal to allow a vote on the gun amendment, and another minor one on suspicious activity reports, in exchange for Paul dropping his filibuster of the bill and letting it come to a final vote. All of the amendments to reform the PATRIOT Act for all citizens, from Paul and other senators, will be left out of the deal.

Paul’s gun amendment would state in law that no portion of the PATRIOT Act can be used to access any firearms records held by licensed gun dealers. According to Gun Owners of America, who says they worked with the senator on drafting the amendment, it’s designed to keep the government from accessing 4473 forms, which are the firearm transaction records that all people who buy guns in the U.S. from a licensed dealer must fill out. Personal information on the forms include name, address, date of birth, photograph, and make/model/serial numbers of the gun that was purchased.

Under the amendment, all other “tangible things” would still be subject to bulk collection by the government under the PATRIOT Act. This includes things like library records, bank information, financial transactions, records of purchases, phone activity, etc. The amendment does nothing for the 62% of U.S. households that do not own guns. And for the 38% that do, every transaction they’ve ever made besides the ones relating to guns would still be subject to warrantless collection by the government.

The other Paul amendment that appears to be in the deal relates to suspicious activity reports. Basically, under the PATRIOT Act, financial institutions are required to submit “suspicious activity reports” to the FBI if they notice any, well, suspicious activity. Under the Paul amendment, law enforcement would have to initiate a request for a suspicious activity report. This is about shifting the reporting burden from banks and financial corporations, not really about protecting privacy.

That looks to be all that Paul, the most aggressive PATRIOT Act opponent in the Senate, will get from the deal. And it’s unclear whether either of them will even pass. Four more years…

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  • ssari30 05/26/2011 6:17pm

    Pass HR 589!!

  • peacefrog 05/26/2011 11:07pm

    The passage of this falsely named Act is suspicious activity itself!

  • TravisHJ 05/27/2011 10:28am

    Do you realize they need to tax employers to get that money? The government doesn’t mind a few leeches but if we were to ask real people for help they would only do so if we really needed it. What we need are jobs. Besides, here we should talk about the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act is a much bigger deal than your materialism. Both are related, the Roman Republic was reformed into the Roman Empire by entitlement and abuse of government power. And you, demanding abuse of tax payers instead of demanding the undoing of the abusive PATRIOT Act. The Republic is go to die and you don’t care. Where is you love of humanity and freedom? It is people like you who destroy freedom loving nations. I am very sad and a little angry with you. Do you care that the Republic is dying and what should we do?

  • ssari30 05/27/2011 5:57pm

    Fuck Dave Camp and John Boehner!!

  • moionfire 05/28/2011 4:48pm

    Rand Paul should be ashamed. Why shouldn’t the government have access to the gun records- especially to those with suspicion of violence and terrorist connections.

  • TravisHJ 05/30/2011 12:01am

    And the millions of us who don’t? Why should the government have access to our gun records? What good and how accurate are they anyways? If we had a national gun registry most terrorist wouldn’t be on it. They would buy Mexican Army and home-made guns on the black market. I am not ashamed of my libertarian views. Views like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Thomas Jefferson. You, on the other hand, sound like a statist like Bush, FDR, Hitler, Obama, McCain, Mao, Castro, and Stalin. With men like these in power, why should the state have gun records? If you’re not ashamed then you’re misinformed or a NAZI. What we have with Bush and Obama is soft tyranny, but still tyranny. We need to STOP being afraid, that is how we got in this mess.

  • pjmerc 05/30/2011 3:35am

    Are you incredibly dumb or what? If a person is intent on using a weapon for criminal purposes, do you think that they’re going to buy that weapon legally? All weapons connected with gang violence that have been seized by the police have been stolen or bought illegally. Where in that scenario do you see the need to pass around information about law abiding citizens?

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