The gun control legislation proposed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) lets firearms dealers secretly run government background checks on job applicants—a gross violation of privacy. Private-sector employers should not be able to use non-public government databases like the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to check up on job applicants, unless the job applicants first consent to the intrusion into their privacy. And the job applicants have every reason to consent—they want the job.
The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin (STM) bill provides that, 90 days after enactment of the STM bill, “the Attorney General shall promulgate regulations allowing licensees to use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) established under this section for purposes of conducting voluntary preemployment background checks on prospective employees.”
It is all well and good that the word “voluntary” leaves licensed firearm importers, manufacturers, or dealers free to use the NICS or not to screen job applicants, but the provision does not protect the privacy of a job applicant. The provision should require—not simply leave to the discretion of Attorney General Eric Holder to decide in his regulations whether to require—the employer to get the job applicant’s consent to the NICS background check.
A comparison of existing federal law on privacy of applicants for jobs in national security positions to the STM legislation on privacy of applicants for jobs with firearms dealers illustrates the shortcomings of the STM legislation.
Existing federal law (5 U.S.C. 9101(c)) requires the written consent of a job applicant for a specified national security position before the agency involved collects criminal history record information on the applicant. Thus, before the U.S. Department of Defense obtains criminal history record information on an applicant for a civilian position handling nuclear weapons, the department must have the applicant’s written consent. But the STM bill would allow a firearms dealer to run a NICS check for criminal history on an applicant for a job handling pistols without the applicant’s consent.
The lack of a statutory requirement for an applicant’s written consent before a firearms dealer can run a NICS check on an employee who applies to the dealer for a job is one more example of how the STM bill fails to protect the rights of Americans.