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The Tiahrt Amendment:

A reader asked for analysis of the Tiahrt Amendment, which will be voted on today in the House Appropriations Committee. The amendment, which has been a BATFE appropriations rider since 2004, protects the privacy of law-abiding gun owners by restricting disclosure to third parties of various federal records of lawful gun purchases, by enforcing a prior federal law requiring the prompt destruction of National Instant Check System records on lawful purchases, and by forbidding the creation of a computerized federal gun-owner registry. The amendment also partially limits the disclosure of information from federal gun traces--which Chicago Mayor Daley and other politicians have sought, in order to support their lawsuits against gun manufacturers. More detailed information is available from a 2004 article I wrote for National Review Online.

The gun control lobby, with New York City Mayor Bloomberg as the point man, are seeking to eliminate the Tiahrt Amendment entirely, but their public campaign has said almost nothing about the most of the provisions of the amendment. (Even though those provisions are contrary to the lobbies' support for comprehensive gun-owner registration.) Instead, they claim that the trace provisions interfere with local law enforcement. Notably, Kansas Rep. Tiahrt offered to negotiate technical modifications of the trace language, to the extent necessary to address legitimate law enforcement (as opposed to lawsuit) needs, but Mayor Bloomberg broke off the negotiations.

whackjobbbb:
Hmmmm, none of my fellow gun nuts interested in this?

I'd love to see Bloomberg run for president. I almost pity the poor fool, if he ever had to step out of that cloistered little world he lives in, and was forced to get out amongst real people. Ross Perot got 19% of the electorate, and not one elec college vote. That elitist nanny Bloomberg gets less than 5%, I bet. Just give me the cash, buddy, and I'll campaign my dog. She'd get more votes than you will.
7.12.2007 6:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I agree that there's no reason to release this data to further litigation against gun sellers, at least where it concerns a lawful sale of a lawful product and the product is not defective (that's the basis of these lawsuits trying to hold gun makers and sellers responsible for gun violence).

However, I have several problems with this legislation:

1. What about actually defective guns? For instance, if the gun is poorly made and discharges when it is not supposed to, injuring or killing its owner. Or it discharges in a situation where the seller made a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose that it would not discharge. Shouldn't that victim be able to trace back and utilize this data?

A statute that bars that use of the data is no longer protecting the right to bear arms; it is protecting the right of gun makers to make shoddy and defective products and not get sued. That isn't good for gun owners at all.

2. The restrictions on instant check gun purchase records and on creating a computer database of gun owners are not germane. Again, that has nothing to do with protecting gun makers and sellers from being sued because their products are used as intended and they work as intended.

Rather, these are simply attempts to prevent a slippery slope towards gun registration. However, there are very good reasons to keep these records and to permit them to be kept. The obvious point is terrorism investigations.

The premise of this law seems to be that the right to bear arms means that if someone buys 50 Uzis from different gun dealers over the course of 3 days, the government shouldn't be able to call the person up and ask him a few questions. I see no basis for that.
7.12.2007 7:25pm
Aaron Pollock (mail):

1. What about actually defective guns? For instance, if the gun is poorly made and discharges when it is not supposed to, injuring or killing its owner. Or it discharges in a situation where the seller made a warranty of fitness for a particular purpose that it would not discharge. Shouldn't that victim be able to trace back and utilize this data?


As a practical matter, how neccesary is tracing to either situation? If a gun has a design or manufacturing flaw, figuring out who the manufacturer is won't be harder than finding the maker's mark, unless the flaw results in the gun being mostly destroyed. As for the waranty case, gun dealers are still required to keep the records of their sales, so they could still be subpoenaed
to determine liability. In the event that someone bought a second-hand gun and the waranty transferred, the buyer would still know who the intermediate seller was, and presumably the retail seller as well (indeed, if they didn't know who the seller was, how would they even know a waranty exixted in the first place?)

2. The restrictions on instant check gun purchase records and on creating a computer database of gun owners are not germane. Again, that has nothing to do with protecting gun makers and sellers from being sued because their products are used as intended and they work as intended.


Rather, these are simply attempts to prevent a slippery slope towards gun registration. However, there are very good reasons to keep these records and to permit them to be kept. The obvious point is terrorism investigations.

Is it? Most terrorist attacks and attempted attacks within recent memory have been of the homemade-explosives variety, rather than mass shootings.

The premise of this law seems to be that the right to bear arms means that if someone buys 50 Uzis from different gun dealers over the course of 3 days, the government shouldn't be able to call the person up and ask him a few questions. I see no basis for that.

If those are fully-automatic UZIs you're talking about, the government keeps those purchase records on file permanently. Nothing in this proposed amendment would alter that.
7.12.2007 9:05pm
Waldensian (mail):

The premise of this law seems to be that the right to bear arms means that if someone buys 50 Uzis from different gun dealers over the course of 3 days, the government shouldn't be able to call the person up and ask him a few questions. I see no basis for that.


Every debate about gun policy includes at least one person who has strong opinions while having no idea what he or she is talking about. If by "Uzi" you were referring to a fully automatic weapon -- and be honest, you were, weren't you? -- then congratulations, you are that person.
7.12.2007 9:23pm
Ian Argent (mail):

The premise of this law seems to be that the right to bear arms means that if someone buys 50 Uzis from different gun dealers over the course of 3 days, the government shouldn't be able to call the person up and ask him a few questions. I see no basis for that.


Ever heard of "probable cause"? Separate yourself from the hype - should the government be able to kick off an investigation of someone for buying 10 sports cars for 10 different dealerships in the span of a week?
7.12.2007 9:30pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Every now and then, some newspaper gets the bright idea that they are going to print the list of people, including addresses (!), who have concealed carry licenses - the Boston Globe tried it a few years back and got slapped down; there was a recent case somewhere else (Tennessee?) where a paper put the license list on their web site and the uproar was so great that they removed it, and I believe that the state in question may have changed their law to make such info non-public.

Nobody wants to be on a shopping list for crooks looking for places to go to steal guns, for several good reasons: personal safety, public safety, harrassment by anti-gun people.

We have gun registration here in MA, it is a gun-owner harrassment law that does nothing toward stopping or solving crime. Let's not give these people any opportunities to spread this cancer.

I figure, if the police associations and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) think that the Tiahrt Amendment is a good idea that doesn't in any way impede law enforcement, then let's not only keep it, let's make it permanent so we don't have to go through this nonsense every year. If, in addition, it keeps Bloomy from trying to sue and harrass the firearms industry - composed of amazingly small and vulnerable companies when compared to most industry - out of business, all the better....
7.13.2007 12:39am