Internal records and contacts obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show that between 2016 and 2019, the FBI quietly issued paperwork to Americans requesting them to "voluntarily" abandon their ability to own, obtain, or even use weapons.
According to lawyers, the signed documents, which were discovered by the pro-gun rights group Gun Owners of America (GOA), raise important legal questions.
“We’re into a pre-crime, Minority Report type of world where the FBI believes it can take constitutional rights away from anyone it thinks possibly might pose a threat in the future,” said Robert Olson, outside counsel for GOA.
The forms were handed by the FBI to people at their homes and at other undisclosed locations, according to FBI records that the gun rights group Gun Owners of America (GOA) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the DCNF.
The private forms were filled out by at least 15 individuals between 2016 and 2019. They ask signatories to verify that they are either a "risk" to themselves or others or lack "mental competence adequately to contract or govern" their life.
Experts in Second Amendment law and the GOA warned the DCNF that the existence of the forms poses significant legal difficulties.
“We’re into a pre-crime, Minority Report type of world where the FBI believes it can take constitutional rights away from anyone it thinks possibly might pose a threat in the future,” said Robert Olson, GOA’s outside counsel who specializes in firearms law. “Which certainly is not something you expect in the United States.”
The form states that if a signer is not permanently registered with the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, they would be legally forbidden from being able to "purchase, possess, and use any firearm" (NICS).
Although it is unclear precisely which criteria the FBI used to choose signatories, several forms include remarks from the agency indicating active investigations.
Numerous signatories are alleged to have made violent threats in person, on social media, and in online chat rooms, according to FBI data.
Agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Maine reportedly handed the FBI the 15 signed papers, but the FBI then removed the names of the Americans who signed them, according to the DCNF.
The FBI form was first disclosed by the guns website Ammoland in 2019, however, the article provided no evidence that it had been used at the time.
The signed forms were sent to GOA as part of its evidence in its lawsuit against the agency, which it launched in January 2020 to compel the disclosure of data relevant to the forms. An FBI spokesman informed the DCNF that the form was "discontinued" in December 2019 but did not provide further details.
“The NICS Indices Self-Submission form was created to provide an avenue for individuals to self-report to the NICS Section when individuals felt they were a danger to themselves or others,” the FBI spokesperson said.