FBI worked secretly with hospitals to strip US citizens’ gun rights, documents show
By —Gabe Kaminsky, Investigative Reporter–March 07, 2023
EXCLUSIVE — The FBI coordinated secretly with hospitals and medical centers to strip U.S. citizens of their rights to own, buy, or even use firearms , according to a trove of internal documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Behind closed doors and without congressional approval, the FBI has worked hand in hand with the Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to strip over two dozen people of their gun rights with internal forms, records show. On the heels of this revelation by the Washington Examiner in December 2022, newly obtained documents and emails shed light on how the bureau apparently received a helping hand from medical facilities to waive gun rights from at least five people.
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“Any time you have evidence of private entities coordinating with federal agents to strip Americans of their rights, the public should be alarmed and demanding answers and action,” said Aidan Johnston, federal affairs director for Gun Owners of America, a firearms rights group. “This is just the latest terrifying new instance of the illegal NICS self-submission form being used in nefarious ways, and those who used it to violate the public’s trust must be held to account.”
Between 2016 and 2019, the FBI presented forms to U.S. citizens at their homes and in other undisclosed locations that registered them with the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the Washington Examiner previously reported . Newly obtained records, however, date the FBI’s usage of the form back to 2011.
Signatories of the internal forms were asked to voluntarily identify as a “danger” to themselves or others, as well as lacking the “mental capacity adequately to contract” their lives. The very existence of the FBI’s forms has raised significant concerns among First Amendment lawyers and members of Congress, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC) and Andrew Clyde (R-GA).
“It really speaks to the rogue nature of the ‘Deep State’ mentality,” Ken Cuccinelli, an ex- Department of Homeland Security official under the Trump administration and the former Virginia attorney general, told the Washington Examiner.
New documents shared with the Washington Examiner, which Gun Owners of America obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shed light on how facilities in New Hampshire, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma, used the gun forms and supplied signatory records to the FBI. The forms are from 2011 and 2019, the year the FBI has said it discontinued their usage.
The document from 2011, which dates the FBI’s actions to five years earlier than has previously been reported, was shared with Oklahoma’s Northwest Center for Behavioral Health, a mental health clinic. Like other forms, the signatory’s name has been redacted by the FBI.
The form was filled out in November 2011, and the clinic later sent it to the FBI, documents show. A medical professional, whose name was also redacted by the FBI, signed the form and disclosed their state license number. There are no investigative records accompanying the Oklahoma-related forms, making it unclear why the person forfeited their gun rights.
In April 2017, one signatory signed a form following coordination between Rockford Center, a private mental health group in Newark, Delaware, and the FBI. The signatory identified as “a danger to himself or to others” and was neither involuntarily committed for treatment nor adjudicated as a “mental defective,” documents show.
However, the Gun Control Act of 1968, a federal law regulating firearms ownership, does not say a U.S. citizen may label themselves unfit to own guns and outlines that a person could be prohibited if they are “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.”
“These new revelations provide additional proof that the FBI has used deeply disturbing tactics to erode Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms,” Clyde told the Washington Examiner. “Make no mistake — the FBI is weaponizing NICS forms to advance the Left’s dangerous agenda of dismantling our Second Amendment liberties and disarming our nation. Congress must thoroughly investigate this troubling matter and hold all unelected, anti-gun bureaucrats involved accountable for forcing Americans to relinquish their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Another medical center that coordinated with the FBI is New Hampshire Hospital, which is state-backed and provides inpatient psychiatric services, documents show.
In September 2019, the hospital filled out a sheet detailing how a patient signed the FBI form. The two-page hospital sheet, which does not list the patient’s name, was forwarded to the bureau.
“The documents you reference are documents used to release medical records to another entity at a patient’s request,” Kathy Remillard, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, told the Washington Examiner. “The patient or guardian must request and approve the sharing of information for the hospital to send records to another entity. The Department does not take a position on the purpose of or reasoning behind the patient’s request.”
The other two facilities that coordinated with the FBI are the Massachusetts-based Holy Family Hospital, which is under the major network Steward Health Care, and Stoneham Medical Group in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
The February 2019 signatory on the Holy Family form was “involuntarily committed for treatment,” and the bureau “brought” the form to the hospital, records show. However, the man signed it and “agreed to treatment voluntarily,” according to documents.
One inscription on the Holy Family form makes reference to a Massachusetts law called Section 12, holding that a patient with “a likelihood of serious harm by reason of mental illness” can be brought against his or her will to a hospital for no later than three days.
The other Massachusetts form was filled out in 2014, records show. Like others, it was signed by a medical professional, who alleged that the patient “had adequate mental capacity” to fill it out.
Still, Second Amendment lawyers have said this is a “contradiction” given that it’s purportedly unclear how someone could be unfit to own guns but be of sound mind to waive their gun rights.
“How would such unilateral waiver of a constitutionally protected right give rise to a basis for subsequent denial of that right and or form the basis for a valid criminal conviction?” asked John Harris, an attorney who directs the Tennessee Firearms Association, in September. “Could, in contrast, someone waive the right to vote or run for office and have that enforced?”
The Washington Examiner also obtained emails between FBI employees who were discussing coordination with an unknown hospital in September 2019.
“Agent, I have reviewed the NICS Indices Self-Submission Form regarding [redacted],” wrote an FBI employee. “In order to make this entry, we will need to verify the subjects DOB. It appears as an incorrect DOB on the form. Also, if only the form is returned with no specific documents establishing federal criteria (see below), A temporary record will be created for this subject that will expire in 30 days.”
Roughly two hours later, another FBI agent responded, “Attached is the Petition I submitted to the hospital to have [redacted] committed for Mental Treatment along with the supporting Social Media Posts expressing a desire to obtain a firearm.”
The existence of records detailing how the FBI was in talks with medical facilities comes on the heels of Republicans vowing investigations into the forms. Judiciary Committee Republicans, like Bishop, alleged in a December 2022 hearing that U.S. citizens were “deprived of their Second Amendment rights without due process.”
One month earlier, in November 2022, Clyde sponsored a resolution that would demand Attorney General Merrick Garland turn over records in connection to the gun forms. House Democrats rejected the measure, the Washington Examiner reported .
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“Despite Judiciary House Democrats’ misguided decision to block my resolution of inquiry requesting the Biden administration to turn over documents connected to these NICS forms last year, I remain committed to uncovering the truth and delivering justice to the American people,” Clyde said.
The FBI did not return a request for comment.