Concealed agenda: Inside the FBI’s secret scheme to strip US citizens of gun rights

A senior FBI agent uses a laptop in the office
A senior FBI agent uses a laptop in the office Nes/Getty Images

Concealed agenda: Inside the FBI’s secret scheme to strip US citizens of gun rights

The FBI worked hand in hand with federal agencies for nearly a decade to strip at least 60 U.S. citizens of their gun rights — a once-secret operation largely brought to light as part of a Washington Examiner investigation.

Between 2011 and 2019, the FBI coordinated with the Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to obtain signatures on internal bureau forms from citizens at their homes and in other undisclosed locations that stripped their rights to own, buy, or even use firearms, according to multiple reports from the Washington Examiner and the Daily Caller beginning in September 2022.


“Bureaucrats at the FBI created an unconstitutional form without authorization from any statute and began pressuring people with mental illness to give up their rights to own a firearm,” Aidan Johnston, a lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, the firearms rights group that’s uncovered documents in connection to the FBI’s form as part of its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, told the Washington Examiner.

Johnston added, “Congress needs to hold hearings and investigate the cruelty of this form.”

At least one hearing has taken place that partially focused on the forms. The House Judiciary Committee held one in December 2022 that saw Democrats and Republicans debating legislation sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) that would let people add themselves to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, thereby forfeiting their gun rights.

No congressional authorization

The forms GOA uncovered apparently added people to this system. Judiciary Committee members, including Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), harped on the apparent contradiction during the December hearing, arguing Democratic attempts to carve a legal pathway for people to waive their gun rights demonstrate the FBI went rogue.

“What we’re looking at is evidence that the FBI went off on their own and wrote the bill and implemented the bill that you are trying to pass here today, or did pass, and will try to pass on the floor,” Massie had said.

John Kennedy, a Massie spokesman, declined to comment on Friday when asked by the Washington Examiner what future actions the congressman may take to investigate the forms.

Signatories of the forms were asked by the bureau to identify as either a “danger” to themselves or others or also lacking “mental capacity adequately to contract or manage” their lives, the Daily Caller reported. While federal law holds that agencies must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget before gathering information from the public, it’s unclear if there’s statutory justification for the forms, considering they were not assigned a “control number” and held for public comment, according to Second Amendment lawyers.

Further, the Gun Control Act of 1968, a federal law regulating firearms, does not mention citizens being able to self-identify as unfit to own guns. Rather, the law outlines that a person could be barred from owning guns if they’re “adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution.”

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The Washington Examiner has not found evidence that signatories were either adjudicated or placed into an institution.

“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,” an FBI spokesperson said in September 2022, noting the forms were “discontinued” in December 2019 for undisclosed reasons.

FBI coordination with other entities

In 2019, the firearms blog Ammoland revealed the existence of the forms. But subsequent reports by outlets including the Washington Examiner provided evidence of them being used on U.S. citizens — with documents signed in states like Massachusetts, Michigan, and Maine. Signatory names were redacted by the FBI, making it unclear whether they’ve since retained their gun rights or quietly waged legal battles.

The first batch of signed forms GOA obtained was accompanied with FBI records showing signatories included those who made violent threats in online chat rooms, in person, and on social media. But records since reviewed by the Washington Examiner provide little indication of signatory backgrounds or their actions that culminated in the government making contact.

However, a March report by the Washington Examiner uncovered that the FBI worked behind closed doors to provide the forms to medical centers in New Hampshire, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. In turn, these centers, some of which are mental health clinics, fed forms to patients and sent completed records back to the government.

That the FBI coordinated with private and public medical centers has raised concerns among watchdog groups. What’s also been scrutinized is that the bureau handed forms over to the Secret Service and ICE, a revelation in a December 2022 Washington Examiner report.

Secret Service and ICE, two agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, emailed back and forth between 2018 and 2019 about the forms. The agencies obtained signatures from citizens and forwarded forms to the bureau, which proved concerning to a former top DHS official under President Donald Trump.

‘Deep state’ mentality

“They were doing it when they had to know their leadership would have opposed it,” Ken Cuccinelli, ex-acting DHS deputy secretary and former Virginia attorney general, had told the Washington Examiner. “It really speaks to the rogue nature of the ‘deep state’ mentality.”

Cuccinelli’s “deep state” notion was echoed by the likes of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who leads the newly created weaponization of the federal government subcommittee. The body is investigating the alleged “politicization” of federal agencies.

Jordan claimed in December 2022 he was eyeing subpoenas in connection to the forms, while his spokesman, Russell Dye, said on Friday, “This is something we are absolutely looking into.” Dye’s comment was tucked into a Friday story on FBI whistleblowers sounding the alarm over the bureau being linked to a covert 2019 plea agreement conditioned by the U.S. government that stripped a defendant of their gun rights, per a March 17 Washington Examiner report.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and 14 GOP members called on the bureau and Justice Department in October 2022 to provide evidence that the form is no longer being used. The lawmakers also demanded Attorney General Merrick Garland remove all signatory records from the NICS database.


Republicans were particularly vocal last Congress on their purported desire to investigate the FBI over the forms, though it remains unclear where those inquiries stand. Greene’s office did not return a request for comment on Friday asking for an update on its investigation.

“We can investigate the FBI for abuse of power because they’re part of the federal government,” Greene said in an October 2022 interview with the Washington Examiner. “Secondly, we have the power to control the FBI budget, and so we can strip them of funding in multiple ways.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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