||FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2007
BI-PARTISAN COALITION OF MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS URGES REPEAL OF TIAHRT AMENDMENT IN OPEN LETTER TO CONGRESS
Letter to Congress Signed by 225 Mayors
The bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns today unveiled an open letter to Congress that will run nationwide in tomorrow's editions of USA Today. The letter, which is signed by 225 mayors who are members of the coalition co-chaired by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, outlines the coalition's objections to the so-called Tiahrt Amendment. The advertisement is the latest part of the coalition's protectpolice.org internet, television and print media campaign. The mayors oppose the Tiahrt Amendment, named after Kansas Representative Todd Tiahrt who has sponsored it, because of how it restricts the access of cities and law enforcement to gun trace data, an essential crime fighting tool.
"The Tiahrt Amendment, hidden away in an appropriations bill, is a stealth attack on law enforcement," Mayor Bloomberg said. "This Amendment, which protects rogue gun dealers and hurts police, is special interest politics at its worst. As recently released FBI statistics show, crime around the country is trending upward, we urge all members of Congress to give police access to the information they need to do their jobs."
"Just last week, a Boston police officer was shot while on duty protecting our streets. He was lucky; his injuries are not life threatening. Yet last year, more than 40 law enforcement officers from across the country were killed by gunfire. So far this year, another 31 have been killed," said Mayor Menino. "This is not a question of gun safety or gun responsibility. More than 13,000 guns are lost or stolen from gun dealers nationwide each year. The proliferation of illegal guns threatens the safety of our communities and I am urging this new Congress to act responsibly."
The Mayors made the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment their top legislative priority at a January summit held in Washington, DC. In April, at a coalition event hosted by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, the coalition launched the protectpolice.org media campaign that informs the public on how the Tiahrt Amendment ties the hands of law enforcement. Later in April, at a coalition event hosted by Jersey City, New Jersey Mayor Jerramiah Healy, the coalition announced television advertisements on broadcast and cable outlets in targeted Congressional districts, including the Kansas district of Representative Tiahrt. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns, made up of Mayors from cities big and small all over the United States, support the rights of law abiding gun owners and object only to the plague of illegal guns that contribute to crime in American cities.
The USA Today advertisement describes how the Tiahrt Amendment restricts a police officer's ability to access trace data. When a gun is recovered at a crime scene, police can trace its serial number to learn who bought and sold that one gun. The Tiahrt Amendment prevents police and prosecutors from seeing aggregate trace data for all guns recovered at crime scenes. As the advertisement describes, "it forces police to investigate gun crime one shooting at a time instead of attacking it at its source."
The Tiahrt Amendment, a version of which has been inserted into the Department of Justice appropriations bill each year since Fiscal Year 2003, also prevents local governments and police from accessing federal gun trace data from areas outside their immediate geographic jurisdiction; prevents cities from use of trace data in state and local civil enforcement actions, including gun license revocations; and prevents the ATF from publishing reports that use gun trace data to analyze nationwide gun trafficking patterns.
The Mayors campaign to remove the Tiahrt Amendment enjoys wide support from law enforcement. Ten national law enforcement organizations - including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, and Major Cities Chiefs Association - and 23 state and regional law enforcement organizations, including the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and the Texas Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the American Hunters and Shooters Association have all joined the Mayors' call for the removal of the Tiahrt Amendment. For more information on the Tiahrt Amendment visit www.protectpolice.org and www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org.
The text of the advertisement is as follows:
An Open Letter From 225 Mayors to Congress About Illegal Guns
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Minority Leaders McConnell and Boehner:
For the last few years, Congress has been undermining police work by quietly refusing to allow police and prosecutors access to crucial crime-fighting information. We urge you to put an end to this stealth attack on law enforcement, known as the Tiahrt Amendment.
As Mayors, our highest responsibility is protecting public safety, and that begins with giving our police officers the tools they need to do their jobs. And they need those tools now more than ever: violent crime is on the rise across the nation, and in both big cities and small towns, police officers face the increasingly dangerous problem of criminals with easy access to illegal guns.
To crack down on illegal gun trafficking rings and keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals, police officers need information called "trace data." When a gun is recovered at a crime scene, police can trace its serial number to learn who bought and sold that one gun. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has aggregate trace data for all guns recovered at crime scenes - yet for the last few years, Congress has prevented police and prosecutors from seeing it.
This means that police can't find out which dealers most frequently sell guns used in crimes (a sign the dealer is breaking federal law), or which people most frequently buy guns used in crimes (a sign the buyer is illegally trafficking guns and selling to criminals). It forces police to investigate gun crime one shooting at a time instead of attacking it at its source.
Why is Congress blocking police officers from this data? Allegedly, to protect the anonymity of undercover officers, but there is not a single instance to support this claim, as even the ATF has admitted. The real reason, of course, is special interest politics. As Congressman Tiahrt himself told the Washington Post in 2003: "I wanted to make sure I was fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers."
Access to trace data has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, the rights of hunters and sportsmen or the rights of gun dealers - the vast majority of whom run honest businesses and obey the law. It is about law enforcement, plain and simple.
A nationwide, bi-partisan coalition of mayors is strongly opposing re-authorization of the Tiahrt Amendment, and we are being joined by 10 national police organizations - including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, and Major Cities Chiefs Association - and 23 state and regional police organizations, including the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and the Texas Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the American Hunters and Shooters Association.
America can't afford a Congress that is soft on crime. This new Congress has a chance to stand up - and stand with us - in the fight for public safety by ending the Tiahrt Amendment. Will you?
Mayors Against Illegal Guns
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