Lawmakers Plead To Make Gun Tracing Info Available
Democratic lawmakers from Queens and throughout New York state have appealed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to remove from the Department of Justice budget "unnecessarily broad restrictions" on gun tracing data that hamper police efforts to keep illegal guns out of criminals' hands.
The restrictions have been in effect since 2003, the early years of the Bush administration.
The lawmakers informed Holder in a letter that President Barack Obama had tried to repeal the restrictions when he was a U.S. Senator from Illinois, but was unsuccessful.
"We support the rights of responsible gun owners," the letter stated. "Yet, we are equally committed to enacting commonsense measures to stem the flow of illegal guns to criminals. Our first responsibility in this regard must be to encourage, rather than hamper, effective law enforcement."
The letter to Holder explained, "One of the most immediate ways we can fight illegal gun trafficking is by rejecting the provisions commonly known as the 'Tiahrt Amendments'."
"These amendments, which have been inserted into the Department of Justice appropriations bill each year since FY 2003, place unnecessarily broad restrictions on access to and use of gun trace data that is compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE)."
The restrictions, the letter pointed out, "prevent police and other enforcement authorities from fully investigating and attacking the trafficking operations that supply illegal guns to criminals".
Among the agencies calling for removal of the Tiahrt restrictions, the lawmakers said, are the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police; 25 other national and state police groups and more than 200 individual police chiefs.
The lawmakers explained that the restrictive matter should be removed from the DOJ budget and be replaced by a "balanced and sensible" provision which allows cities and states "access to vital trace data that they need to analyze the trafficking of illegal guns and ensures that BATFE has the ability to withhold any data that might compromise an ongoing criminal investigation".
Among those signing the letter to Holder were U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Queens Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, Anthony Weiner, Gregory Meeks, Gary Ackerman and Nydia Velazquez.