How the release of trace info on firearms could put police officers at risk

Todd Tiahrt
Todd Tiahrt, who represented Kansas as a Republican member of the U.S. House, now heads a consulting firm in Wichita. His series of appropriations riders, known as the Tiahrt Amendment, has restricted the uses of ATF funding since 2003.
Submitted photo

It is amazing what people will say when they want to make money off the violation of Americans' privacy. In a report on Minnesota Public Radio by Brandt Williams, a source named Joe Vince was quoted as saying: "Tiahrt is, in simple terms, nuts."

Vince, a retired ATF agent, is a partner in a consulting firm called Crime Gun Solutions, based in Frederick, Md. Apparently he wants the records of every private citizen who owns a firearm so he can use it to make money for his consulting company. Perhaps he chose the wrong line of work.

Vince was referring to the Tiahrt Amendment, which was designed to protect those who protect us. Already on the Web you can find lists of undercover agents and informants who cooperated with law enforcement to keep our streets safe.

In 2003, when the ATF supported the Tiahrt Amendment, it was rightfully concerned that its undercover officers and their straw-man firearms dealers would be exposed through the release of trace data on firearms, which could result in some website placing the officers and their families in jeopardy. That is also why the Tiahrt Amendment had the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in the nation. Simply said, it wanted to protect its officers.

As a side benefit, the Tiahrt Amendment is protecting privacy of all Americans who choose to purchase a firearm to protect themselves and their families. Trial lawyers, gun control groups and people like Vince would love to use the protected information for their own purposes, none of which would make America safer. Instead it would provide them with a self-serving means to make money. Why not ask for bank records, health care data or other personal private information?

Those who take the time to read the law placed in statute by the Tiahrt Amendment will find that whenever a crime is committed, trace data is immediately available to law enforcement, prosecutors and the court system. The Tiahrt Amendment's clarification language in 2008 confirms that trace data was available for crimes committed outside the United States.

What Joe Vince wants us to do is trust the ATF to accumulate data and make it available to him, to the trial lawyers or gun-control groups through the Freedom of Information Act.

This is the same ATF that allegedly has allowed firearms to be sold to drug cartels in Mexico, according to CBS Reports, under an operation called "Fast and Furious." In the report, John Dodson, ATF agent, tells how the ATF allowed guns to "walk" across the Mexican border to drug cartels through a program that was approved by the Justice Department.

Some of these guns ended up at a murder scene where U.S. border agent Brian Terry was killed. These were guns purposely allowed by our own government to be illegally transferred across the Mexican border to criminals.

The MPR report and the quotes from Vince miss the point. Trusting the ATF is not as important as protecting those who protect us, protecting the privacy of every American who chooses to purchase personal protection and protecting the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

Perhaps journalists' time would be better spent holding the ATF accountable for potentially violating the law through the "Fast and Furious" program.

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Todd Tiahrt, who represented Kansas as a Republican member of the U.S. House, now heads a consulting firm in Wichita. His series of appropriations riders, known as the Tiahrt Amendment, has restricted the uses of ATF funding since 2003.

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