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
Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Gun Control May be Wasting Away, But Not Because of COVID

A recent article on a gun control news site laments that the COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted ballot initiatives to expand gun bans and restrictions. Initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Oregon have stalled, allegedly due to the ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

NRA Victory in Washington

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NRA Victory in Washington

It’s rare that gun owners have something to celebrate in the Emerald City. But on Monday, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an NRA suit on behalf of Seattle gun owners. 

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Anti-Gun Organization Prepared to Launch National Group of Gun Owners Who Apparently Don’t Like Guns

Yes, that title doesn’t make much sense, but neither does a group that promotes banning firearms starting a national organization called Gun Owners for Safety. Nonetheless, The Hill recently reported that the anti-gun group Giffords is doing just ...

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

News  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Law Professors Make Case for Second Amendment Rights in Uncertain Times

Americans have made clear that they value their Second Amendment rights, especially during uncertain times. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and then widespread civil unrest, Americans have bought firearms in record numbers. Through September, the FBI ...

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

News  

Monday, October 12, 2020

Montana: Californian-funded Fake Hunting Group Lies About Steve Bullock’s Anti-gun Record

Montana gun owners have been subjected to an abundance of lies this election season. Leading the misinformation campaign is fake hunting group Montana Hunters & Anglers Leadership Fund. Bankrolled by a wealthy San Francisco Bay ...

Gun Controllers Try to Hide Joe Biden’s Anti-gun Extremism

News  

Monday, September 14, 2020

Gun Controllers Try to Hide Joe Biden’s Anti-gun Extremism

With Fall 2020 upon us it is time again for gun control advocates’ quadrennial tradition – dishonestly attempting to convince voters that a brazenly anti-gun presidential ticket does not pose a threat to gun owners. ...

Biden Focuses Prohibitory Ambitions on “Gun Parts,” Among (Many, Many) Other Gun Control Items

News  

Monday, October 5, 2020

Biden Focuses Prohibitory Ambitions on “Gun Parts,” Among (Many, Many) Other Gun Control Items

Ever since he clinched the Democrat presidential nomination, we have been warning America’s gun owners that Joe Biden is no “moderate” when it comes to gun control. Simply scrolling through the extensive gun control agenda published on his official campaign website ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

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.