STATISTICS ON GUNS USED IN CRIMES MUST BE RESTORED, URGE SENATORS
A group of 15 U.S. Senators, led by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), are pushing to restore broad access to vital statistics on the origins of guns used in crimes (http://menendez.senate.gov/pdf/Tiahrt.pdf). In a recent letter to the Appropriations Committee, the senators argued against the amendments attached every year since Fiscal Year 2004 to the Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), which effectively block public, Congressional and even a wide swath of law enforcement access to a national database tracking firearms.
In the years before the information was restricted, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm's National Trace Center showed that the overwhelming majority of guns used to commit crimes in a number of urban areas originated out of state. In essence, criminals have subverted states with strong gun laws, like New Jersey and Massachusetts, by bringing in guns from states with lax laws.
The Tiahrt amendments were also touched upon during Senate Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with federal law enforcement today.
"Right now, law enforcement and lawmakers are essentially trying to combat this problem blindfolded," said Senator Menendez. "We know that criminals are doing an end-around of states with tough gun laws, but we don't have access to the specifics. States where it's far easier to buy a gun than to get a driver's license are major sources of weapons used to kill people in states like New Jersey. We need access to all available information to help shut down this iron pipeline."
Senator Kennedy said, "The Congress needs to get rid of the Tiahrt Amendments so that state and local law enforcement can fight crime without one hand tied behind their backs. These officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect all of us deserve to have the best law enforcement tools available. They need shared access to federal crime gun trace data to develop effective, multi-jurisdictional strategies to combat gun trafficking and illegal guns."
"Many of the guns used in crimes in New Jersey come from other states," said Senator Lautenberg, who today pressed the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) at today's Committee meeting. "The Tiahrt amendment deprives us of critical information in the fight against violent crime -- information like trends in illegal gun trafficking, what kinds of guns found their way into the hands of criminals, and what gun shops were providing the bulk of guns found in crimes. We need to be able to identify where guns are coming from if we are to combat gun violence and protect our communities."