WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-13) today introduced bicameral legislation to greatly enhance the ability of law enforcement to investigate and solve gun crimes, crack down on gun trafficking and negligent gun dealers, and allow researchers—for the first time—to study gun violence and its impact on communities across the country. The Gun Records Restoration and Preservation Act would require the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to collect, preserve and disclose gun records and gun tracing data.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
“Thanks to the NRA and its vice grip on congressional Republicans, critical information that can help protect us all from the scourge of gun violence is being withheld, not just from the public, but in some cases from law enforcement agencies tasked with solving gun crimes,” said Sen. Menendez. “In fact, Republicans have for years been inserting language in routine spending bills to keep this information from ever seeing the light of day, and in some cases, authorize the data be completely destroyed. That’s why we don’t have comprehensive research on how gun violence is hurting our communities or whether easy access to guns makes us safer as the NRA would have us believe. Our commonsense legislation rights this wrong and ensures vital gun data is preserved to be used to make our communities safer.”
“Every day, more and more people across the country are victimized by gun violence. And for far too long, Republicans in Congress have stood in the way of meaningful gun reforms that could help bring an end to this public health crisis,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “The fact that – until recently – experts couldn’t even research gun violence because the NRA and gun lobby forbid it is despicable. At the very least we should be able to scientifically analyze the causes behind gun violence in America. That’s why it’s past time to remove the Tiahrt restrictions so the FBI and ATF can collect and maintain the data needed to properly investigate and prevent gun violence and make our communities safer. I’m proud to work with Senator Menendez on this critical legislation.”
Since 2003, Republicans have restricted the ability of the ATF and FBI to collect, preserve and make public a range of gun records and data by attaching so called “Tiahrt Amendments” to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) yearly funding bill. The Menendez-Lee legislation would repeal the following Tiahrt provisions:
“Gun violence is an epidemic that reaches into our communities, our places of worship, our homes, and even our kids’ schools,” Sen. Booker said. “This legislation will help us properly enforce our existing gun laws by repealing harmful policies that hamstring law enforcement’s efforts to prevent and respond to gun violence.”
“The Republican ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ approach to gun violence data and research is just plain stupid,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “We know there’s a problem—communities wrecked by gun violence and more than one hundred deaths every day is proof of that—but we can’t fully develop evidence-based solutions when the data is hidden or even destroyed. Our bill is pretty basic: law enforcement agencies shouldn’t be forced to hide or destroy critical information about gun violence that could help them better keep our communities safe.”
“Gun violence is a health epidemic in the United States, and the first step in addressing this scourge is the ability of researchers to study the health crisis,” said Sen. Markey. “I am proud to cosponsor this legislation that allows law enforcement to do their jobs and for meaningful research to be conducted. This bill will mean that the NRA no longer really stands for No Records Available.”
“There is a national epidemic of gun violence; Congress needs to act,” said Sen. Harris. “Access to gun data is vital to law enforcement’s ability to solve gun crimes and keep our communities safe. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this critical reform that will help protect Californians and Americans across the country.”
“The gun violence epidemic has seeped into every corner of American life, reaching our children’s schools and our neighborhoods. To reduce this violence, we need to make effective use of all the data and analytic tools at our disposal, including crime gun tracing,” Sen. Durbin said. “This legislation will remove archaic restrictions on data that have hampered our ability to solve and prevent gun crimes.”
"ATF shouldn't stand for 'After The Fact,'" said David Chipman, retired ATF special agent and senior policy advisor at Giffords. "If we want our gun laws to be enforced effectively, with a mind toward prevention, we have to allow federal law enforcement to do their jobs in partnership with the communities they have sworn an oath to protect. By removing some of the constraints placed on ATF, this bill will do just that: allow law enforcement to disrupt gun trafficking organizations, thwart unlicensed dealers, stop straw purchasers and quickly identify licensed gun dealers that have violated the public trust. I'm grateful to Senator Menendez and Representative Lee for introducing this critical legislation."
“Eight out of 10 guns used to commit crimes in New Jersey come from out of state––but there is no information about the dealers who sold those guns. That’s because of the Tiahrt Amendments, and it’s unacceptable,” said Jai Patel, volunteer with New Jersey Students Demand Action. “I’m glad that Senator Menendez and Representative Lee are stepping up and taking action to repeal these amendments for good.”
“The repeal of the Tiahrt Amendments is a critical to ending the epidemic of gun violence,” said Brady United Against Gun Violence President Kris Brown. “For far too long the gun lobby has been able to keep the American people in the dark about how guns are funneled through corrupt practices and onto our streets in order to protect industry profits. This legislation would pull back the curtain and help cities, states, law enforcement agencies, and researchers identify the very small percentage of irresponsible gun dealers that supply the overwhelming majority of guns to the criminal market. Brady is proud to support this legislation and grateful to the leadership of Senator Menendez and Representative Lee for introducing it.”
January 21, 2021