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August 23, 2011

NSSF Corrects Globe Columnist on Tiahrt Amendment and PLCAA


In his Boston Globe column (“Boston’s illegal gun problem,” August 23, 2011), criminologist James Alan Fox takes on the Tiahrt Amendment and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Let’s set the record straight:

The public release of firearms trace data is prohibited under federal legislation known as the Tiahrt Amendment. This legislation is supported by Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and law enforcement groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police because it secures sensitive tracing information which would jeopardize on-going criminal investigations and put the lives of law enforcement officers and others at risk. So while no law enforcement agency in the country has ever been denied access to firearm trace data about their community, not a single one, it remains imperative that this information not be made public.

Demonstrating the importance of securing trace data, one need not look further than anti-gun New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg misused trace data to launch so-called “sting” operations against firearms retailers – without the knowledge of either ATF or his own police department – interfering with as many as 18 criminal investigations and forcing ATF to pull agents out of the field for their own protection.

One secondary benefit of securing trace data is that anti-gun politicians, lobbyists and researchers cannot misrepresent the data and besmirch the good names of honest businessmen and women. Unfortunately, this happens when one erroneously links the number of traces a firearms retailer has to illegal acts. ATF has repeatedly cautioned that trace data is in no way indicative of criminal wrong-doing by firearms retailers; it is merely a law enforcement tool.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which passed into law in 2005 with broad bi-partisan support, was in response to the flood of reckless lawsuits brought by anti-gun mayors seeking to hold members of the firearms industry liable for the criminal or unlawful misuse of their products. This lawsuit abuse was so prevalent that thirty-six states already had laws on the books that barred public nuisance suits against gun makers.

When the city of Boston voluntarily dropped its lawsuit against members of the firearms industry in 2001, the city acknowledged in a court filing that “members of the industry … are genuinely concerned with and are committed to the safe, legal and responsible sale and distribution and use of their products.” How unfortunate that Mr. Fox disagrees.