One of the NRA’s and other Second Amendment advocates’ chief worries is that the government will someday begin registering firearms owners. In Springdale, Arkansas, registration may already be taking place, albeit on a smaller scale.
Alerted by a post on their website, Arkansas Carry began investigating the possibility that law enforcement agencies are keeping and illegally utilizing records of individual transactions at local pawnshops. According to the post:
“I live in Northwest, AR and have a amature (sic) radio license as well as a concealed carry license. I listen to the police scanner often and have noticed something the past few months. When doing a background check on some one they will often come back with one of these 3 statements:
1. Pawner of fire arms.
2. Pawner of knives or swords.
3. Pawner of archery equipment.
We aren't talking about illegal pawning, just pawning. This happens on routine traffic stops as well as other calls. No other past criminal behaviors most of the time but they were still flagged.”
Using this information, the writer took it upon myself to call a local pawnshop owner in the Springdale area. I found that pawnbrokers are required by local ordinance (Sec. 94-41) to electronically upload all transactions within 48 hours; most (if not all) upload the information daily at the end of the business day. All data is sent to a database service that is accessible to all law enforcement agencies. The information includes, per state law:
(A) A detailed record of each and every transaction, including the type of identification displayed by the person from whom the property was received;
(B) The name, address, race, sex, height, weight, and date of birth of the person from whom the property was received;
(C) The driver's license number, personal identification number issued under 27-16-805, or the number from some other form of photographic identification of the person from whom the property was received; and
(D) A description of each item pawned, including, but not limited to, identifying numbers or serial numbers.
Arkansas Carry recently sent the Springdale Police Department an FOIA request, asking the following questions:
• Does the City of Springdale Police Department use this database to aid in any way in the identification of individuals during traffic stops or when detaining individuals?
• Does the City of Springdale use this database in any other way when pertaining to firearms, other than tracing stolen firearms?
• How long are these pawn records retained in the database? *
The Springdale Police Department promptly answered back:
• We do have a database of all pawned items including firearms.
• I am not sure what you are asking regarding your question of the database aiding in identification of individuals on traffic stops. The officers have access to the database through their mobile computers and through the communications center if this is what you are asking. They would need to search a name or a description of the item to check the database.
• We check all pawned firearms against the stolen file maintained by ACIC.
* (The question of how long these records are retained by the Springdale Police has not yet been answered; this response is delayed, and will be coming from the computer information personnel at the City of Springdale.)
Obviously, Springdale patrol officers are able to access any uploaded personal information pertaining to any local individual who has pawned a gun in the past (how far back in the past is as yet unknown). Using the information from the Arkansas Carry post, it is very probable that these patrolmen are utilizing this information illegally.
Why is it illegal? The Arkansas state law that is relevant to pawn shop records states this:
§ 12-12-103 - Pawnshop records -- Penalty
(e) (1) Any city or county may require by ordinance that pawnshops and pawnbrokers:
(A) Submit the records required by this section in a designated electronic format; and
(B) Daily upload data to a centralized secure tracking system to be chosen by the city or county.
(2) The electronic records submitted under this subsection (e) shall be used for the sole purpose of investigating crimes involving property.(emphasis is by author)
Law enforcement is prohibited by law from using this database for anything other than a current property crime investigation. From the facts provided, one can assume the Springdale Police Department is illegally using this data provided as a gun registration of people who have pawned firearms in the Springdale area.
Two further problems exist for gun owners in Arkansas. How long are these records kept (there is no provision in Arkansas law that demands destruction of firearms records sent electronically), and how many other cities in this state are infringing upon the rights of its citizens? The dilemma may be massive.