For Release: Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Washington, DC – The fiscal year 2004 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 2673) now pending in the U.S. Senate contains provisions that are pro-criminal and anti-public safety, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) charged today. “The gun lobby loaded up the omnibus spending bill with provisions that will help criminals arm themselves while protecting corrupt gun dealers,” stated Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director.
The most egregious provision would reduce the time that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) can retain records of approved gun sales from the current 90 days to a maximum of 24 hours.
“The practical effect of the 24-hour rule for records destruction will be to ensure that felons and domestic abusers remain armed,” Rand stated.
The Brady background check system for firearm purchases is only as accurate as the records made available to it, and sometimes sales are approved when they should have been denied. In such cases, ATF must initiate a “firearm retrieval” to recover the gun from the illegal purchaser. If the record of such a sale is destroyed, it will be virtually impossible to retrieve the purchased guns. A June 2002 General Accounting Office study conducted for Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) found that 97 percent (228 of 235) of firearm retrievals initiated during the first six months of the current 90-day rule could not have been done under a 24-hour rule. Simply put, that means that 228 prohibited persons (i.e. felons, persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, fugitives, etc.) would have been able to keep their illegal guns if the records had been destroyed within 24 hours.
Other dangerous provisions would benefit gun dealers who arm criminals by:
- Prohibiting ATF from finalizing a proposed August 2000 rule that would require gun dealers to conduct an annual physical inventory. The purpose of the proposed rule is to allow dealers to identify missing and stolen firearms and report them to ATF in a timely fashion. This would help alleviate situations such as the alleged circumstances surrounding the assault rifle used by the Washington, DC-area snipers in October 2002. In that case, the snipers allegedly stole the Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle used in the shootings from Bull’s Eye Shooters Supply. Bull’s Eye claimed that they did not discover that the gun was stolen until ATF traced the weapon to the store.
- Prohibiting public release of any information regarding firearms production or sale required to be kept by gun dealers and manufacturers. In addition, no information regarding records of multiple handgun sales (where two or more handguns are sold to the same buyer within five days) or gun tracing information that is reported to ATF could be released to the public.
- Preventing ATF from computerizing records of gun dealers who go out of business. This is done primarily to facilitate the tracing of crime guns.
Adds Rand, “These measures are pro-criminal and anti-public safety. They are a gift to gun criminals and unsavory dealers. We can only hope that the National Rifle Association’s friends in the U.S. Senate take off their pro-gun blinders and recognize the threat posed by these reckless provisions.”