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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC




S. 2460. A bill to permit access to certain information in the Firearms Trace System database; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, today, I am introducing new legislation to address the critical issue of access to information about guns traced to crimes. This bill would repeal restrictions on the release of crime gun trace data from the Federal Government to State and local police.

It goes without saying that the more we understand a problem and its sources, the more proficient we will be in our attempt to create a solution that works. That is especially true when talking about guns that are used to commit crimes. One study has shown that 1.2 percent of gun dealers sell 57 percent of guns later traced to criminal investigations.

The State that I have the honor of representing in the Senate, New Jersey, has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet hundreds, if not thousands, of off-limit customers, such as those under age or those who do not have a license, wind up with such weapons each month. And the overwhelming majority of guns used to commit crimes in our State's cities were originally sold in compliance with the law in other States.

In fact, a large majority of the guns used to commit crimes in Jersey City, Newark, and Camden traveled up the East Coast along I-95, which has been called the ``Iron Pipeline.'' This is truly a paradox that has not only frustrated law enforcement agents, but elected officials too.

That is why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives's Crime Gun Trace Reports (CGTRs) were created to provide information to three different audiences: Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies; federal Firearm Licensees (FFL); and the public, Congress, and State and local authorities.

According to the reports released in July 2002, 85 percent of the traced guns used to commit crimes in Jersey City and Newark, and 77 percent of those used in Camden, were originally purchased outside of New Jersey. And more than 67 percent of crime guns recovered in Jersey City were originally purchased more than 250 miles away.

This is exactly the type of information that assists law enforcement officials in placing local crime guns in a regional and national strategic enforcement context and would allow Federal, State, and local elected officials to develop national, regional, and local strategic responses to gun crime.

Unfortunately, every year for the past few years Republicans in the House have slipped a provision into law to prohibit the release of this information to anyone other than ``..... a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency or a prosecutor solely in a criminal investigation or prosecution.'' This amendment effectively prohibits information from reaching Congress, and State and local authorities, and the public.

This even limits how Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies can use these Crime Gun Trace Reports. It only allows law enforcement agencies to use these reports to investigate a crime that has already been committed.

So, it only allows law enforcement officials to retroactively punish crime, rather than proactively preventing it from happening in the first place.

That is why I am introducing legislation to make this gun crime data public again. It will not only help law enforcement prosecute gun crimes, but will also increase public awareness about where these guns originated.

Until now, the restrictions have been imposed through the annual appropriations process, which means they end at the end of each fiscal year, or September 30. However, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on legislation that would write these restrictions into law permanently.

Why is this information being concealed from the American people? It certainly contains no classified or sensitive national security material. The taxpayers have paid for information to be collected and the reports to be prepared, so why do they not deserve access to the information? And why is it illegal for Federal, State and local policymakers and law enforcement officials to use these reports in the way they were envisioned: to better understand and combat the scourge of gun violence that plagues our cities?

Denying police access to this information about crime gun traces helps no one but the bad guys. Our families' safety should never take a backseat to the demands of radical interest groups seeking only to further their own narrow agenda. Congress needs to pass my legislation--instead we need to stand up for our families. I urge my colleagues to join me in this important effort.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

S. 2460


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