Provisions Tucked Into
Omnibus Spending Conference Report Would Arm Criminals And Protect Corrupt
Gun Dealers, Violence Policy Center Charges
fiscal year 2004 omnibus spending bill (H.R. 2673) now pending in the
U.S. Senate contains provisions that are pro-criminal and anti-public
safety, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) charged today. "The gun lobby
loaded up the omnibus spending bill with provisions that will help criminals
arm themselves while protecting corrupt gun dealers," stated Kristen Rand,
VPC legislative director.
The most egregious
provision would reduce the time that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms
and Explosives (ATF) can retain records of approved gun sales�from the
current 90 days to a maximum of 24 hours.
"The practical effect
of the 24-hour rule for records destruction will be to ensure that felons
and domestic abusers remain armed," Rand stated.
The Brady background
check system for firearm purchases is only as accurate as the records
made available to it, and sometimes sales are approved when they should
have been denied. In such cases, ATF must initiate a "firearm retrieval"
to recover the gun from the illegal purchaser. If the record of such a
sale is destroyed, it will be virtually impossible to retrieve the purchased
guns. A June 2002 General Accounting Office study conducted for Senator
Richard Durbin (D-IL) found that 97 percent (228 of 235) of firearm retrievals
initiated during the first six months of the current 90-day rule could
not have been done under a 24-hour rule. Simply put, that means that 228
prohibited persons (i.e. felons, persons convicted of domestic violence
misdemeanors, fugitives, etc.) would have been able to keep their illegal
guns if the records had been destroyed within 24 hours.
Other dangerous provisions
would benefit gun dealers who arm criminals by:
- Prohibiting ATF
from finalizing a proposed August 2000 rule that would require gun dealers
to conduct an annual physical inventory. The purpose of the proposed
rule is to allow dealers to identify missing and stolen firearms and
report them to ATF in a timely fashion. This would help alleviate situations
such as the alleged circumstances surrounding the assault rifle used
by the Washington, DC-area snipers in October 2002. In that case, the
snipers allegedly stole the Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle used in the
shootings from Bull's Eye Shooters Supply. Bull's Eye claimed that they
did not discover that the gun was stolen until ATF traced the weapon
to the store.
- Prohibiting public
release of any information regarding firearms production or sale required
to be kept by gun dealers and manufacturers. In addition, no information
regarding records of multiple handgun sales (where two or more handguns
are sold to the same buyer within five days) or gun tracing information
that is reported to ATF could be released to the public.
- Preventing ATF
from computerizing records of gun dealers who go out of business. This
is done primarily to facilitate the tracing of crime guns.
Adds Rand, "These
measures are pro-criminal and anti-public safety. They are a gift to gun
criminals and unsavory dealers. We can only hope that the National Rifle
Association's friends in the U.S. Senate take off their pro-gun blinders
and recognize the threat posed by these reckless provisions."
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x122