BELLEVUE, WA – After it was disclosed that the State of California has, for several years, been illegally accessing the FBI’s National Instant Check System (NICS) – in an attempt to circumvent federal law – the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) today called on Congress to adopt legislation that would provide tougher penalties for such abuses in the future.

CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said no state should be permitted to access the NICS databank for what amounts to an intelligence gathering effort against individual citizens. He noted that regardless how Lockyer’s friends in the California media choose to spin this story it appears the state has knowingly misused the NICS databank to invade the privacy of California residents.

“Of all people, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer should know that what California has been doing is a violation of federal statute,” Gottlieb chided. “That United States Attorney General John Ashcroft is now enforcing the law, when the previous administration allowed Lockyer and his predecessor to flagrantly violate it, can hardly be held against Ashcroft.

“The more important issue,” Gottlieb added, “is what Bill Lockyer is doing with this information. That really hasn’t been fully explained, other than to claim the NICS data is being used to track down theoretically potential ‘illegal gun owners,’ when in fact, they may not possess a firearm at all. There are other ways of getting the needed information from other government databases, so that the state should not feel it necessary to break a federal law in order to enforce a state law.”

Gottlieb said Congress should move swiftly to prevent further abuses by the State of California. The NICS database, he stressed, was created only for the purpose of helping firearms dealers determine if a potential gun buyer is legally able to own a firearm. It was never intended or designed to be used as a tool for government fishing expeditions, and the law specifically prohibits that kind of access.

“If Bill Lockyer plans to run for governor in 2006,” Gottlieb observed, “running as the candidate who deliberately violated a federal gun law is not the best platform from which to launch a campaign.”