BATFE collecting racial data on gun purchase forms
Form 4473, the BATFE form for collecting data on gun buyers supposedly for the purposes of running a background check, has been amended to include fields for the race of the buyer. Since the purpose of the form has nothing to do with race -- background checks are pretty much color blind -- there's a legitimate question about why that data is being collected. I can think of a couple possibilities.
First, it's possible they are being honest and intend to use the data to distinguish between buyers of similar names and ages but different races when conducting background checks. How useful is the data for that purpose? We can't really know what the BATFE is seeing internally, but unless the dealers are being asked to verify the racial heritage of their customers, it could actually make things worse -- if the John Doe with a felony is white, and the John Doe data on the form says John Doe is black but otherwise identical, how does that improve the situation?
Second, strange as it seems, this could be an actual act of racism; the BATFE could be intending to focus more resources on investigating minority gun buyers for straw purchases and gang affiliations. While the Obama administration is obviously not going to support that as a policy, the BATFE is an agency with a fairly recent history of actual, honest-to-god, racism.
Third, and most likely, is that the Obama Administration intends to use the data at some point in a political attack on the firearm industry. When banks started collecting racial data on people applying for mortgages, the resulting information was rapidly used to file lawsuits alleging racial discrimination in who received the loans. It didn't matter that the loan decisions were generally made on the basis of financial information and documents rather than race; because the outcome was racially disproportionate, therefore the process had to be racist. It will be hard to argue that a federal background check is racist, but maybe they think that they can claim dealers are discouraging minorities people from buying firearms.
It could be as simple as adding one more thing that dealers have to check when filling in the form, and thus more opportunities to harass them.