The Tiahrt Amendments, named for their original sponsor, U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), are provisions attached to federal spending bills that make it harder for law enforcement officers to aggressively pursue criminals who buy and sell illegal guns.
For years, the Tiahrt Amendments have been standing in the way of law enforcement efforts to stop the flow of illegal guns to criminals. But now, a coalition of 350 mayors and 200 police chiefs have called for repealing these damaging restrictions.
[l|node/2|Learn more about the coalition opposing Tiahrt]
The coalition is pleased that President Obama, both during the campaign and since taking office, has taken a common sense stand against gun crime by joining the call for the Tiahrt restrictions to be removed.
[l|node/12|Learn more about White House support for removing the Tiahrt restrictions]
The Tiahrt Amendments force gun trace data requests to be made in connection with individual criminal investigations or prosecutions, blocking full access to the aggregate data that law enforcement need to examine gun trafficking patterns and make key connections between separate cases. Furthermore, state and local governments are prohibited from seeing trace data or using it in administrative license reviews.
UPDATE: President Obama has signed new FY 2010 appropriations language into law, which restores full access to crime gun trace data for state and local law enforcement. However, the Tiahrt Amendments continue to restrict what state and local law enforcement can do with trace data they have gathered.
In February 2007, ATF denied Jersey City, NJ’s request for all “trace data for all firearms involved in crimes in Jersey City” between 2001 and 2006. In a letter, ATF explained that “unfortunately” it is unable to provide the data because of “a Congressional appropriations restriction.”
Read the letter.
The Tiahrt Amendments require the Justice Department to destroy the record of a buyer whose NICS background check was approved within 24 hours. This makes it harder to catch law-breaking gun dealers who falsify their records, and it makes it more difficult to identify and track straw purchasers who buy guns on behalf of criminals who wouldn’t be able to pass a background check.
In 2007, Seung Hui-Cho purchased two handguns less than 90 days before he went on a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people. Even if police had received a tip that Cho was behaving suspiciously in the run-up to his horrible crime, there were no records available that would have told them he had recently purchased firearms.
While dealers must notify ATF if they discover that guns from their inventories have been lost or stolen, the Tiahrt Amendments prevent ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual physical inventory checks to detect losses and thefts. ATF reported that in 2007 it found 30,000 guns missing from dealer inventories based on its inspection of just 9.3% of gun dealers.
In 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed 11 people in the Washington, DC area with a sniper rifle that had gone missing from Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, WA. That gun was one of many -- the store was later determined to have lost track of 238 guns over a three-year period. It was only after the horrifying shooting spree was over that the dealer’s license was revoked in 2003.
Read an ATF fact sheet reporting that they found more than 30,000 guns went missing from just a small fraction of gun dealers in 2007
Representative Tiahrt has made many misleading claims about the budget amendments that carry his name.
Cut through the noise and get the facts (PDF)
After years of steady decline, murder and violent crime are once again on the rise – particularly in America’s towns and cities.
90% of Americans think police should be allowed to share information with other cities and states about who sold and bought a gun that is found at a crime scene.