Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

The "Tiahrt Amendment" on Firearms Traces: Protecting Gun Owners' Privacy and Law Enforcement Safety

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

For over a decade, cities and anti-gun organizations sought access to confidential law enforcement data on firearms traces, both for use in lawsuits against the firearms industry and for use in questionable studies used to support their goals. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) compiles these records when it traces firearms in response to requests from law enforcement agencies.

Starting in 2003, the U.S. Congress passed increasingly strong language to keep this information confidential. The legislation—a series of "riders" to the appropriations bill that funds BATFE—is widely known as the "Tiahrt Amendment," after its sponsor, former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.). That provision was made permanent in 2006 as a part of the fiscal 2007 Appropriations bill to fund the Justice Department.  In 2009, the provision was amended to further strengthen the protections for undercover law enforcement operations and confidential informants.

Despite complaints from anti-gun activists, there are many good reasons for continuing to keep this information confidential:

  • Releasing the information serves no useful purpose. The Congressional Research Service has repeatedly said "firearm trace data may be biased" and "cannot be used to test for statistical significance between firearm traces in general and the wider population of firearms available to criminals or the wider American public.”[1] These limitations exist because the "tracing system is an operational system designed to help law enforcement agencies identify the ownership path of individual firearms. It was not designed to collect statistics."[2]
  • Traced guns aren’t always “crime guns”; firearms may be traced for reasons unrelated to any armed crime. The BATFE trace request form lists “crime codes” for traffic offenses and election law violations, among many others.
  • Trace information remains available for law enforcement use. The permanent version of the Tiahrt amendment ensures that trace data is available to federal, state, and local agencies "in connection with and for use in a bona fide criminal investigation or prosecution" or for use in administrative actions by BATFE—the principal agency responsible for overseeing the conduct of federally licensed firearms dealers. The language and history of the Gun Control Act are clear: Congress always intended to keep this information confidential, and to allow its use only for legitimate law enforcement purposes. The firearms trace database includes information such as the agency requesting a gun trace, the location from which the gun was recovered, and the identity of the dealer and original retail buyer.
  • Both BATFE and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) oppose release of trace data. In fact, BATFE has fought for years in the federal courts to keep trace records confidential, because they contain information (such as names of gun buyers) that could jeopardize ongoing investigations—not to mention law enforcement officers’ lives. For example, a suspected gun trafficker could search publicly released information for names of "straw purchasers" he had used to buy handguns, or for traces requested on guns he had sold. That information could lead him to names of officers, informants and witnesses against his crimes. (View commentary by FOP President Chuck Canterbury from April 24, 2007)

NRA is committed to ensuring confidentiality of sensitive law enforcement information, and strongly opposes any effort to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment or any effort by the executive branch, or by state or local governments, to avoid its restrictions.

Resources


 [1] Congressional Research Service, Gun Control: Statutory Disclosure Limitations on ATF Firearms Trace Data and Multiple Handgun Sales Reports 3 (June 30, 2006).

[2] Congressional Research Service, Assault Weapons: Military-Style Semiautomatic Firearms Facts and Issues (May 13, 1992).

TRENDING NOW
New “Watchlist” Sends Outspoken Academics into a Tailspin

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

New “Watchlist” Sends Outspoken Academics into a Tailspin

A new “watchlist” is ruffling feathers in the academic community, with critics calling it “Orwellian,” “grotesque,” “an assault on academic freedom,” and even “the right’s new McCarythyism.”

Gun Control Group: Interest in Guns, Music Signals Intention to Murder

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Gun Control Group: Interest in Guns, Music Signals Intention to Murder

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), an activist group out of Connecticut, has created a heart-tugging “public service announcement” that it hopes will capture the public’s imagination.  

Ohio: Important Self-Defense Bill Heads to Governor Kasich!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ohio: Important Self-Defense Bill Heads to Governor Kasich!

Early this morning, Sub. Senate Bill 199, now including original language from Sub. House Bill 48, overwhelmingly passed the House and final concurrence in the Senate, despite the efforts of misguided anti-gun groups.  The bill will ...

The Year of the Gun: Carry Permit, Sales Figures Explode in 2016

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Year of the Gun: Carry Permit, Sales Figures Explode in 2016

The number of persons in the United States with concealed carry permits has reached an all-time high of close to 15 million. John R. Lott, Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center explains:

Ohio Concealed Carry Bill Passes Assembly with Impressive Majority

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Ohio Concealed Carry Bill Passes Assembly with Impressive Majority

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauds the Ohio General Assembly for its overwhelming support of legislation that expands the rights of concealed carry permit holders in the Buckeye state.

Corporate Lawyers Join Activists to Restrict Gun Rights

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Corporate Lawyers Join Activists to Restrict Gun Rights

This week, the New York Times announced that some of the nation’s largest law firms are forming a coalition with gun control advocates to provide tens of millions of dollars of free legal services to battle the ...

Ohio: Contact your State Legislators Today in Support of Important Self-Defense Bill!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ohio: Contact your State Legislators Today in Support of Important Self-Defense Bill!

Today, Sub. Senate Bill 199 is expected to receive its final votes; however, anti-gun groups are actively trying to defeat this bill! It is important that you contact your state legislators TODAY and tell them that an ...

California: Bullet Button Guns Must be Purchased and Received by Dec 31st

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

California: Bullet Button Guns Must be Purchased and Received by Dec 31st

Recently the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms sent out a notice to California firearms dealers with information regarding the recently passed “assault weapon” legislation, SB880 and AB 1135.

November Gun-Check Numbers Break Records While Surpassing Expectations

News  

Friday, December 9, 2016

November Gun-Check Numbers Break Records While Surpassing Expectations

The number of firearm-related queries to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in November 2016 set new records despite predictions that Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton would diminish gun buyer demand.

Gun Control Supporters Race to Embarrass Themselves Following OSU Stabbing Attack

News  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Gun Control Supporters Race to Embarrass Themselves Following OSU Stabbing Attack

Guinness World Records may refuse to acknowledge feats pertaining to the lawful exercise of right to keep and bear arms, but how about a world record for most shameless attempt to politicize tragedy? The competition would ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.