The ACLU’s second “significant concern” with Reid’s legislation is that it too broadly defines the term “transfer,” creating complicated criminal law that law-abiding Americans may unwittingly break.
“[I]t’s certainly a civil liberties concern,” Calabrese told TheDC. “You worry about, in essence, a criminal justice trap where a lawful gun owner who wants to obey the law inadvertently runs afoul of the criminal law.”
“They don’t intend to transfer a gun or they don’t think that’s what they’re doing, but under the law they can be defined as making a transfer. We think it’s important that anything that is tied to a criminal sanction be easy to understand and avoid allowing too much prosecutorial discretion.”
“For example, different gun ranges are treated differently,” Calabrese said. “You’re firing a firearm in one geographic location, you’re OK, but in another, you’re not. And those kind things, it’s going to be hard for your average consumer to really internalize and figure out the difference.”
“Criminal sanctions shouldn’t hinge on those kinds of differences,” he said.
Separate from the ACLU’s concerns with a universal background check system, Calabrese flagged another provision of the legislation invented by Sen. Boxer that the ACLU is “worried about” — school tiplines for the reporting of “potentially dangerous students”
“We’re worried about this tip line,” Calabrese admitted. “We think we already have a phone number for reporting dangerous situations — it’s called 9-1-1.”
“The tip line doesn’t have any guidance for who should be included, how we should vet these requests, who should be included in the system, what you should do with this information once you get it,” he warned. “It just seems like a dangerously unregulated avenue that’s going to risk pushing more kids into the criminal justice system.”
“What’s a school supposed to do if they get an anonymous phone call that some kid is dangerous?” Calabrese went on. “How are they supposed to treat that? Do they have liability if they ignore it? Should this kid be suspended? Or should he be scrutinized by a school safety officer because of an anonymous tip?”
“You could see how this could run amok very quickly. These are high schools. Lord knows, if you’re going to give a kid an anonymous opportunity to lash out at someone, you’re going to see a lot of problems.”