PUBLIC INFORMATION — Gun fanciers in California have joined the ranks of those advocating more public access to federally-collected data about the weapons used to commit crime, reports gun violence fighter Paul Helmke in the Huffington Post.
"Gun violence prevention advocates, public health researchers and
members of the media are the "usual suspects" pushing officials at
different levels of government for information about firearms used in crime.
Unfortunately, these groups are frequently stymied by the Tiahrt restrictions,
which place unnecessary limits on what government officials can say
about such weapons. This secrecy helps keep the public in the dark
about the nature of the illegal gun market, and makes it difficult for
public officials to formulate policy to disrupt illegal gun trafficking and use.
Now, in the wake of the tragic shootings of four Oakland police officers
in March, a California gun lobby organization known as Calguns finds
itself also trying to get crime gun information about the weapons used
in those murders. In their case, they want to oppose efforts
to make high-capacity ammunition magazines harder to get in California
rather than stop illegal gun sales, but their position is instructive.
Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said,
"You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your
own facts." Apart from their views about gun violence prevention, the
effort by Calguns suggests that they too realize that the public needs
to know the facts about guns involved in shootings and other crimes in
order to adequately debate gun policy.
The question of public access to crime gun trace data is a little
dry, and it may be difficult to keep the public's interest for very
long. Still, if we want to do something about the 100,000 deaths and injuries
from guns that occur every year in this country, we need to learn more
about what guns are used in crime and where they come from.
It was because of these issues that candidate Barack Obama made a specific promise to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment
during his 2008 campaign. His Administration has yet to do what he
promised, however, and efforts to combat the illegal gun market – which
fuels gun crime across America – are suffering because of it.