NSSF: The ATF Keeps Breaking Laws Barring Release of Gun Trace Data

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The executive branch of government is charged with enforcing federal laws. Part of that, for better or worse, includes the ATF and their enforcement of laws regarding alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives--which sounds like a hell of a July 4th party if you ask me.


Sometimes, though, enforcing the law requires someone like the ATF to not do things, such as releasing specific data. 

I'm talking about gun trace data, which they cannot lawfully release due to the Tiahrt Amendment, which bars that specific act. It's not a difficult law to follow, either. You just don't do something that requires more work for ATF personnel. It should be as easy as it gets.

Unfortunately, it seems that the ATF is completely unable to do so and the NSSF's Larry Keane is less than pleased by this.

Someone at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) believes it is easier – or more politically convenient – to roll over to gun control activists and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit than it is to defend a federal law protecting firearm trace data.

For the second time in less than a year, the ATF chose to ignore the Tiahrt Amendment – the federal law that prohibits the disclosure of sensitive firearm trace data to anyone outside of law enforcement circles for use in a bona fide investigation – and instead released it to the public. This time, the ATF handed over the trace data to The Trace, the mouthpiece for the activist gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Just six months ago, ATF handed over firearm trace data to USA Today through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request – despite the fact that firearm trace data isn’t subject to FOIA requests.


This all begs the question of why the Biden administration is allowing firearm trace data to be released in violation of federal law without taking it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, like they did when Chicago demanded nationwide trace data to support its lawsuit against the industry. The case was pending before the Supreme Court when Congress enacted the Tiahrt Amendment. After all, even the ATF has said that the appearance of a firearm retailer in a trace report “in no way suggests” wrongdoing on the part of that retailer.


It starts with President Biden himself. Four years ago, he stood on the debate stage with the other Democratic candidates for The White House and said “Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA, the gun manufacturers.” Since then, he’s used nearly every government lever to attack the industry in a “whole of government” campaign against the only industry that provides the means to exercise a Constitutionally-protected right.


Keane notes that 1.6 trafficked guns investigated by the ATF came from a gun store and that it amounts to about 0.1 percent of total gun stores involved, so why does this data keep being released?

As noted, it starts with President Joe Biden.

See, he's anti-gun and he built an administration that is as vehemently anti-gun as humanly possible. To them, the law is irrelevant so long as it serves the cause, and that cause just happens to be gun control. They want it and they'll do anything they can to make it happen. They'll do it in spite of the laws actually telling them they can't because, frankly, who is going to do anything to them?

I mean, it's not like Merrick Garland is going to prosecute himself, now is he?

And just think of how close we came to having that guy on the Supreme Court. The entire nation dodged a bullet there, but now we have Garland as part of the most anti-gun administration we've ever seen and will hopefully ever see. I say "hopefully" because the idea of a more anti-gun president terrifies me.

While Biden famously said no one is above the law when the Trump verdict was announced, the reality is that he and his administration routinely act as if they are, in fact, above the law.

They may not like the Tiahrt Amendment, but the correct approach is to change the law. You can't? Then tough.

The truth is that heads need to roll over this repeated violation of federal law. This is intentional and someone needs to answer for it. Unfortunately, I think it unwise to hold your breath waiting for that to happen.


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