News Item:
Memo to Executive Board, Board of National Trustees, State Lodge Presidents, Secretaries and Officers on Tiahrt Amendment05/17/2007
FROM:     Chuck Canterbury, National President
DATE:      17 May 2007
RE:          Facts about the "Tiahrt Amendment"

The Fraternal Order of Police has been on the receiving end of numerous politically-oriented attacks by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his "law enforcement spokesperson," John Feinblatt, because of the FOP's support of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on the issue of disclosure of firearms trace data.

Mayor Bloomberg has assembled a coalition of his colleagues and is engaged in an effort to repeal what is known as the "Tiahrt Amendment" from the annual appropriations measure to be considered by Congress later this year. The amendment was first enacted by Congress several years ago at the request of ATF, which had been repeatedly forced to go to court to protect the firearms data when it was sought by municipal governments to use in civil lawsuits against firearms manufacturers. The FOP supported that language then and we continue to do so because the release of such data to non-law enforcement entities—namely civil litigants—could compromise the safety of law enforcement officers and the integrity of law enforcement investigations.

The campaign to repeal the "Tiahrt amendment" has enlisted police chiefs and organizations which represent them and used them to claim that the prohibitions on the use of the firearms trace data is hampering local and State efforts to combat illegal firearms and several have gone so far as to say that ATF refuses to share the firearms trace data with law enforcement agencies pursuing a criminal investigation. Neither of these claims are true, but chiefs have little choice but to support the political position of their mayors at whose pleasure they serve.

Further, it is important to note that at no time prior to the attacks made on the FOP did Mayor Bloomberg or any member of his administration reach out to the FOP to hear our perspective. Given the Mayor's comments and his general attitude, we can only assume this is because the FOP is a labor organization.

FACTS ABOUT THE "TIAHRT AMENDMENT"

  • Firearms trace data is "law enforcement sensitive" and it is collected by ATF specifically to assist in criminal investigations.
  • The prohibitions on the disclosure of firearms trace data has been part of every ATF appropriations bill since 2003.
  • There is nothing in the law, in regulation, or in ATF's internal procedures which would prohibit disclosure of firearms trace data to a law enforcement agency or prosecutor which certifies that the data will be used to further a criminal investigation or prosecution.
    • EXAMPLE: The firearms used by Seung-Hui Cho, who massacred more than thirty people at Virginia Tech in April, were traced by local law enforcement with the help of ATF within twenty-fours hours after the weapons (which had the serial numbers filed off) were recovered from the crime scene.
  • Once a law enforcement agency or prosecutor has received this data, they are free to share it with whomever they wish.
  • The law does prohibit the use of ATF data as testimony or evidence in third-party civil actions.
I would urge all of you to stick to the facts about this legislation and to direct any media inquiries to the staff at the National Legislative Office.