FIREARMS INFORMATION USE ACT -- (Senate - April 09, 2008)
Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, it is a privilege to join my colleagues in supporting the Firearms Information Use Act to repeal the most extreme provisions in the Tiahrt amendment and lift the veil of secrecy that currently surrounds the flow of guns in our country. The act will give law enforcement agencies the support they need to do their job, while protecting information about undercover officers, confidential informants, ongoing investigations, and lawful firearms purchasers. It is a basic open-government measure that is critical for the public safety of communities across America.
The Tiahrt amendment is an appropriations rider enacted in 2003 that restricts public access to information gathered by the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It prevents law enforcement organizations from sharing gun trace data with each other and from obtaining gun trace data outside their geographic jurisdiction. It prohibits such information from being used as evidence in State license revocations, civil lawsuits, or any other administrative proceedings, unless specifically filed by the Bureau. It also prevents the Bureau from publishing reports that use gun trace data to analyze the flow of guns at the national level.
Numerous mayors, law enforcement officers, and researchers have spoken out against these restrictions. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of over 250 mayors led by Mayor Tom Menino of Boston and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, is staunchly opposed to the Tiahrt amendment, and one of the coalition's top priorities is to have the amendment repealed. The International Association of Chiefs of Police recently emphasized that we can reduce gun violence in our communities by making gun trace data publicly available.
In a 2006 report, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence documented the harmful consequences of the Tiahrt amendment. The Brady Center found that the amendment ``had an immediate chilling effect on the Bureau's activities,'' that ``academic researchers have already found their work stymied,'' and that the amendment has ``crippled'' efforts by law enforcement to investigate patterns of gun trafficking on a nationwide basis and to identify sources of guns used in crime. The report unequivocally concludes that the ``Tiahrt Amendment is a transparent attempt by the gun lobby ..... to shield the public, as well as government and law enforcement agencies, from the truth about guns and crime.''
In spite of these criticisms, the amendment has been included in the Justice Department appropriations bill every year since 2003, and even more restrictive versions of it have been proposed in recent months. By enacting the Firearms Information Use Act, Congress can restore sanity to our policy on gun trace data. Scaling back the Tiahrt amendment will give our State and local officials the information they need to halt gun trafficking and the reckless dealers who facilitate it. Whatever one's views of the second amendment, surely we can all agree that it does not confer a right to sell firearms illegally. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.