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
Seattle Gun Tax Fails to Generate Projected Revenue, Succeeds in Burdening Rights

News  

Gun Laws  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Seattle Gun Tax Fails to Generate Projected Revenue, Succeeds in Burdening Rights

On March 16, 2017, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle city officials were reluctant to release data on the revenue generated by the city’s firearms and ammunition tax, citing taxpayer confidentiality concerns. Less than a ...

Wisconsin: Important Right to Carry Bill Introduced

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wisconsin: Important Right to Carry Bill Introduced

Today, LRB 2039/1 was introduced to the Wisconsin State Legislature.  This Right to Carry bill would allow for the concealed carry of a firearm without a concealed carry license anywhere in the state where an ...

Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Embraces Heller and Originalism During Senate Hearings

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Embraces Heller and Originalism During Senate Hearings

Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme court, asserted during his confirmation hearings this week that Scalia’s landmark Second Amendment opinion in District of ...

The Washington Post Gives Gun Control Group and U.S. Senator Three Pinocchios on Suppressors

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Washington Post Gives Gun Control Group and U.S. Senator Three Pinocchios on Suppressors

Last week, we wrote about Americans for Responsible Solutions’ irresponsible misinformation about The Hearing Protection Act on Twitter.  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who took notice of ARS’s complete disregard for the facts on ...

Virginia Action Needed: Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Self-Defense Bills

Monday, March 27, 2017

Virginia Action Needed: Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Self-Defense Bills

Following their passage in the Virginia General Assembly, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed multiple self-defense bills; Senate Bill 1299, Senate Bill 1300, House Bill 1852, and House Bill 1853. 

News  

Monday, March 27, 2017

NRA Applauds Texas State Senate for Passing SB 16

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action applauds the Texas Senate today for passing Senate Bill 16, legislation that substantially reduces License To Carry fees in the Lone Star state.

Texas: Senate Passes SB 16, LTC Fee Reduction Bill, by Overwhelming Vote

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Texas: Senate Passes SB 16, LTC Fee Reduction Bill, by Overwhelming Vote

On Monday, the Texas Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 16, NRA-backed legislation sponsored by State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Joan Huffman (R-Houston), on a 26-5 vote.

California: One Gun a Month Bill Pulled from Senate Public Safety Hearing

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

California: One Gun a Month Bill Pulled from Senate Public Safety Hearing

Today, Tuesday, March 28, anti-gun SB 497, was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee.  At the last minute, the bill was pulled from today's agenda. Thank you to all who contacted the ...

California: Anti-Gun Bill Limiting Firearm Purchases to be Heard in Senate Public Safety on Tuesday, March 28

Friday, March 24, 2017

California: Anti-Gun Bill Limiting Firearm Purchases to be Heard in Senate Public Safety on Tuesday, March 28

On Tuesday, March 28, anti-gun SB 497, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee.  SB 497 would expand the existing one handgun a month law to include ALL guns.  

More Firearms, More Firearms Owners, Fewer Fatal Accidents

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, March 24, 2017

More Firearms, More Firearms Owners, Fewer Fatal Accidents

The National Safety Council released the 2017 edition of its annual Injury Facts report this week, and it contains welcome news about firearm safety. 

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.