U.S. House Appropriations
Committee Rejects Amendments to Help Prevent Illegal Gun Trafficking
the House Appropriations Committee rejected amendments
offered by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Moran (D-VA)
that would help law enforcement stop illegal gun trafficking. Instead,
the Committee voted to keep intact the so-called �Tiahrt Amendment� that
restricts law enforcement and public access to information compiled by
ATF about guns traced to crime. The votes came as the committee considered
the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill that funds the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The Violence Policy
Center (VPC) is urging Congress to repeal the �Tiahrt Amendment.� Many
law enforcement organizations oppose the provision, including the International
Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sherriffs� Association.
�By denying state
and local officials and law enforcement access to basic information regarding
guns traced to crime scenes, the Appropriations Committee is handcuffing
police and making it virtually impossible for mayors who are trying to
crack down on illegal gun trafficking to identify the sources of crime
guns used in their communities,� charged Kristen Rand, legislative director
for the Violence Policy Center.
Some form of the prohibition
has been in place since fiscal year 2004. [For more information on the
negative effects of this language on law enforcement, please see http://www.vpc.org/atffacts2.htm.]
Before the release of such information was banned, the tracing data had
been publicly available and was routinely used by city officials and law
enforcement agencies to determine the sources of illegally trafficked
firearms and to identify corrupt gun dealers and the types of guns most
often traced to crime.
Adds Rand, �Keeping
crime gun trace data secret puts the whims of the gun lobby ahead of the
needs of local officials and law enforcement who are desperate for information
that will help them fight illegal gun trafficking. Those who want to keep
this information secret have simply concocted arguments that have no basis
Proponents of keeping
crime gun trace data secret contend that allowing access to the tracing
information would endanger law enforcement officers and witnesses while
jeopardizing ongoing criminal investigations. However, prior to implementation
of the �Tiahrt Amendment� the information was routinely released under
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specific exemptions to the FOIA
allowed ATF to withhold any information that could interfere with law
enforcement investigations. The FOIA explicitly protects from disclosure
any information that could reasonably be expected to interfere with law
enforcement operations. There is no evidence that release of the information
ever resulted in any harm to law enforcement or police investigations.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x109