And why does the law say the records must be destroyed within 24 hours?
A conference report accompanying an appropriations bill passed on Nov. 14, 2011, contained this language: "Section 511 permanently prohibits funds from being used to implement a Federal user fee for background checks conducted pursuant to the Brady Handgun Control Act of 1993, and to implement a background check system that does not require and result in the destruction of certain information within 24 hours."
Note that the language says this is a "permanent" change.
Moreover, the conference report included these words in the section on expenses for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: "That no funds appropriated herein or hereafter shall be available for salaries or administrative expenses in connection with consolidating or centralizing, within the Department of Justice, the records, or any portion thereof, of acquisition and disposition of firearms maintained by Federal firearms licensees."
This is pretty sweeping language. The law not only mandated the destruction of FBI records within 24 hours, but then it makes sure no one at ATF could even begin to think about such a registry while on the clock.
And who served on this conference committee? Mitch McConnell.
Not only that, he voted for the final bill, as well — one of only 17 Senate Republicans to do so. As House and Senate negotiators met, he also signed a letter concerning the firearms database prohibition, saying it should be made permanent. (Generally such limiting language in appropriations bills lasts only as long as the fiscal year.)
Gun-control foes have also suggested that the requirement that gun dealers retain Form 4473 — which contains information on guns that are sold — could be turned into some sort of registry. A dealer must keep the form on file for 20 years and surrender it to the FBI if the shop goes out of business. But this has long been a feature of the law and is unrelated to Obama's proposals.