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Get a GRIP

Growing up in Monticello, guns were a normal part of life: for hunting, for protection, for sport, for collecting. It was not unusual to see rifles on truck gun racks or hanging over fireplaces. What would have been unusual then — and would still be unusual today — would be discovering that the government was keeping a list of law-abiding citizens who had guns, or would allow that list to be published by a newspaper.

A few years ago, New York reporters published databases showing where licensed gun owners and permit holders lived in that state: creating a virtual shopping list for criminals seeking to steal weapons. Now, New York seeks to require all gun owners to register their handguns with the New York State Police.

I’m not sure what they’re thinking in places like New York, but one thing is clear: Not a single federal dollar should be used for states or cities to target the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.

I introduced the Gun Owner Registration Information Protection Act (S.3135) or the GRIP Act to ensure no federal funds are used, either intentionally or not, for misguided gun control efforts. This legislation is needed to guarantee the federal government is not involved in exploiting the personal information of law-abiding people who own or purchase firearms legally.

Under current law, the federal government may not store information acquired during the firearms background process. My bill reinforces that policy and clarifies that this prohibition extends to the use of federal funds by states, localities and other groups for the creation or maintenance of a full or partial gun registry.

The GRIP Act would prohibit states from using federal grant programs like the National Criminal Histories Improvement Program, the NICS Amendment Records Improvement Program, and the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program to create or maintain gun registries of law-abiding Americans. These grant programs can help states improve criminal record keeping and fulfill reporting requirements, but they shouldn’t be used to target gun owners deliberately or not.

Another problem is that several state supreme courts have decreed that storing personally identifiable information related to firearm purchases and ownership does not violate some state laws, which creates a loophole for those states to keep registries of gun owners. My legislation would ensure federal funds cannot be used by a state even in the case where they attempt to exploit such a loophole.

Finally, this bill does not include limitations related to law enforcement-issued firearms or lost or stolen firearms.

I am a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and the NRA has endorsed this legislation.

We are a nation of laws. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences like being incarcerated and losing the right to vote or have a firearm. Law-abiding Americans shouldn’t be subject to those standards, particularly if they are gun owners. There is no need to track those who exercise their Second Amendment rights through a registry. The GRIP Act would make sure federal funds aren’t used for any such purpose.

Folks in Monticello would say bureaucrats who want gun registries should get a grip. My bill is going to help them out with that.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is a cattle farmer from Southwest Mississippi.