Tiahrt Amendment

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The Tiahrt Amendment (/ˈthɑːrt/ TEE-hart) is a provision of the U.S. Department of Justice 2003 appropriations bill that prohibits the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from releasing information from its firearms trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a criminal investigation.[1] This precludes gun trace data from being used in academic research of gun use in crime.[1] Additionally, the law blocks any data legally released from being admissible in civil lawsuits against gun sellers or manufacturers.[1]

Some groups, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, believe that having further access to the ATF database would help municipal police departments track down sellers of illegal guns and curb crime. These groups are trying to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment.[2] Numerous police organizations oppose the Tiahrt Amendment, such as the Major Cities Chiefs Association (which represents the 69 largest police departments in the United States), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP),[3] the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Police Foundation, the chiefs of police of nearly every major city in California, and others.[4] On the other hand, it is supported by the Fraternal Order of Police, which says it is "concern[ed] for the safety of law enforcement officers and the integrity of law enforcement investigations. For example, the disclosure of trace requests can inadvertently reveal the names of undercover officers or informants, endangering their safety. It may also tip off the target of an investigation."[5] The Tiahrt Amendment is also supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which says that undoing the Tiahrt Amendment would lead to a rash of lawsuits against gun dealers.[2]


The Tiahrt Amendment was first added by Todd Tiahrt (R-KS, after whom it is named) to the 2003 federal appropriations bill. It was signed into the law as part of this bill on February 20, 2003. It was subsequently broadened in October 2003 with the addition of two provisions banning the ATF from requiring gun dealers to inspect their firearm inventories and requiring the FBI to destroy background check data within 24 hours. In 2004, it was altered again, this time to limit access to gun trace data by government officials, and to ban the use of such data in firearms license revocations or civil lawsuits.[6]

In 2008, the language was altered further, to explicitly allow ATF to publish information about statistical trends in the manufacture, import, export, sales, and criminal use of firearms.[7]

ATF can also share some gun-trace data, individually or in bulk, with some law-enforcement agencies outside ATF.[8]

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  1. ^ a b c Grimaldi, James V.; Horwitz, Sari (October 24, 2010). "Industry pressure hides gun traces, protects dealers from public scrutiny". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Knight, Heather (June 19, 2007). "Mayors Fight Gun Measure". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  3. ^ United Against the Tiahrt Amendment, protectpolice.org
  4. ^ "Gun Bill Urges Congress To Repeal Tiahrt Amendment". ABC 10: KGTV San Diego. 12 June 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  5. ^ Canterbury, Chuck (16 April 2007). "Letter to Appropriations Subcommittee in support of Tiahrt Amendment". Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  6. ^ Webster, Daniel W.; Vernick, Jon S.; Bulzacchelli, Maria T.; Vittes, Katherine A. (2012-02-01). "Temporal Association between Federal Gun Laws and the Diversion of Guns to Criminals in Milwaukee". Journal of Urban Health. 89 (1): 87–97. doi:10.1007/s11524-011-9639-5. ISSN 1099-3460. PMC 3284599. PMID 22218834.
  7. ^ https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/RS22458.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ "Tiahrt Amendments".

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