“. . . It’s very possible he acquired the gun in a street deal, or borrowed it from a friend. But we’re not going to learn anything about who originally purchased it, or where. That’s because — bet you didn’t know this, people — it’s illegal for the authorities who track this stuff to let the public know.
Yes! This is thanks to the Tiahrt amendment, first passed in 2003, which prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing information with … almost anybody. It also limits the F.B.I.’s ability to hang onto gun background check data, requiring its quick destruction. All in all, the idea is to give gun dealers approximately as much right to privacy as cloistered nuns.
Todd Tiahrt, a former congressman from Kansas, has been out of office since his political career crashed in 2010 because of an unfortunate attempt to move up to the Senate. But his amendment lives on and on and on. As a result, it’s pretty much impossible for the public to know if there are one or two particular gun dealers in their town who’ve sold a whopping number of weapons that were later used in crimes.
“The A.T.F. has a tremendous amount of data,” said Josh Scharff, legal counsel for Brady, the gun-safety advocacy organization. Five percent of gun dealers, Scharff said, are responsible for selling 90 percent of the guns used in crimes. . . . “