Ready, aim, fire: National gun registry in sights

Published: January 08, 2013

Contract AwardsForecasts and SpendingJustice/Public Safety & Homeland Security

Several weeks ago, President Obama established an interagency task force on gun control. Vice President Biden is set to head up the task force of leaders to make recommendations to the White House on how to curb gun violence. While it is unclear exactly what the recommendations will include, part of the plan may to be to establish universal background checks and “track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database.”
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, the health insurance exchange (HIX) was also established. The HIX initiative was established in order to provide a central marketplace for consumers to compare rates, benefits and quality of health care plans. By January 1, 2014, under the Affordable Care Act, all HIX systems must be up and running.
Could Biden and his task force look to HIX as a model for the creation of a national gun registry? According to many gun control advocates, changes are needed in the ways in which guns are obtained, specifically by individuals with mental health issues. Setting aside the possibility of an assault rifle and high-capacity magazine clip ban, would the creation of a national gun registry allow federal and state governments the ability to track gun purchases, including those at gun trade shows? Obviously more details on such a system are needed before an answer is reached. However, one thing is clear: Like with the creation of the HIX, numerous vendors and industry leaders are going to be needed to establish such a system.
Analyst’s Take:
The establishment of a national gun registry may also draw parallels to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), which is a national fingerprint and criminal history database (the system will soon be replaced by the Next Generation Identification System). State, local and federal agencies across the country have constant access to IAFIS, which helps determine if a suspect has a criminal background. The establishment of a gun registry may be linked to the IAFIS system as well as other systems. The creation of the registry and any standards and subsequent computer systems will involve the vendor community as well as public safety organizations and the government. Vendors who have been involved in other national standards and databases hold essential insight regarding how to develop this type of system.
Even if the task force recommends such a system and it is approved in Congress, and then signed into law, it may be years before anything is up and running on a national level. The unfortunate reality is that between now and that time, additional shootings are likely to occur. Gun control advocates would say that getting the ball rolling on a national registry system needs to begin sooner than later. On the other side, the NRA and gun advocates will vehemently oppose such a system. Whether it is approved or not, we should be prepared for its creation.