SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. (February 5, 2024) – On Friday, a Utah House committee passed a bill that would prohibit financial institutions from tracking or disclosing firearm-related transactions, undermining efforts by the feds and other entities to collect data on gun owners.
Rep. Cory Maloy introduced House Bill 406 (HB406) on Jan. 26. The legislation would prohibit a financial institution operating in Utah from the following:
- Requiring a merchant to use a firearms code specifically for firearms retailers located in the state from a general merchandise retailer or sporting goods retailer
- Decline a lawful payment card transaction based on a firearms code
- Limit or decline to do business with a customer, potential customer, or merchant based on whether they have a firearms code
- Charge a higher transaction or interchange fee to a merchant for a lawful transaction due to a firearms code
- “Suppress or track” lawful commerce involving a firearm, firearm accessory or component, ammunition, or reloading supplies.
“Firearm Code” is defined as “the merchant category code 5723, approved in September 2022 by the International Organization for Standardization, for firearms retailers.”
The legislation also gives the State Attorney General the sole power to enforce the law while denying private right of action.
On Feb. 2, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee passed HB406 by an 8-0 vote.
IMPACT ON FEDERAL PROGRAMS
Concern about the misuse of firearms databases isn’t just paranoia. The Taliban has reportedly used a firearm ownership database created by the U.S. government to track down gun owners and confiscate firearms in Afghanistan. This goes to show that even if you trust the people creating the database, it can fall into the wrong hands. In other words, the very existence of a database is a danger.
The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through fusion centers and a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
In practice, local data collection using ALPRs, stingrays, drones and other spy technologies create the potential for the federal government to obtain and store information on millions of Americans including phone calls, emails, web browsing history, location history, and text messages, all with no warrant, no probable cause, and without the people even knowing it.
In a nutshell, without state and local assistance, the feds have a much more difficult time gathering information. When the state limits surveillance and data collection, it means less information the feds can tap into. This represents a major blow to the surveillance state and a win for privacy.
HB406 has not yet been referred to another committee. It will need to clear the House before it can advance to the Senate.
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