While most of us were gorging ourselves on outsized portions of turkey, ham, and pie on Thanksgiving, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean were making the final edits on a joint editorial being readied for publication. Last Friday, that editorial — ominously titled “Enabling the Next Fort Hood?” — ran in the Washington Post.
Bloomberg and Kean mention Major Nidal Hasan’s rampage and then transition to the Little Rock military recruiting station shooting carried out by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Muslim convert. It seemed as if Bloomberg and Kean were about to blame Islamic extremists for these attacks — but that would have been both far too logical and far too brave.
Instead, they used these attacks against American soldiers by militant Muslims to attack a series of laws first passed in 2003. These laws kept confidential law enforcement data and the private information of American citizens from being obtained by the public.
I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. They write:
A full investigation will reveal whether other red flags should have resulted in preventive action, but here is one thing we already know: A federal law repeatedly supported by Congress interfered with the FBI’s ability to find out about Hasan’s purchase of a handgun. Knowledge of that purchase might — and should — have triggered great scrutiny. And it could have saved lives.
During the Clinton administration, the FBI had access to records of gun background checks for up to 180 days. But in 2003, Congress began requiring that the records be destroyed within 24 hours. This requirement, one of the many restrictions on gun data sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), meant that Hasan’s investigators were blocked from searching records to determine whether he or other terrorist suspects had purchased guns. When Hasan walked out of Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., the FBI had only 24 hours to recognize and flag the record — and then it was gone, forever.
Contrary to what Bloomberg and Kean claim, law enforcement has never been without access to gun trace data.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) keeps records of all gun trace data, which typically includes the name of the law enforcement agency submitting the request, the site from where the firearm was recovered, the name of the commercial dealer that sold the firearm, and the name of the original buyer. All any law enforcement agency needs to do is contact the ATF, and they will run a gun trace.
I have personal knowledge of this. I’ve been part of the process myself, digging through boxes to locate a specific Form 4473 for ATF agents.
The ATF and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) both support the Tiahrt amendment (as the laws are collectively known) as a matter of record, with the FOP declaring:
The FOP has supported this language since the original version was first enacted several years ago because of our concern 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, as appears to be the case in New York City.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The actions of law enforcement officers in Bloomberg’s own city is a prime example of why this law needs to be retained to protect the lives of law enforcement officers and informants and to protect the integrity of investigations. Even NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly supported the importance of Tiahrt — until anti-gun Bloomberg was elected and “helped” Kelly change his mind.
So why is Bloomberg so against the Tiahrt amendment, if police agencies and the ATF strongly favor the laws to protect police officers and their investigations? The answer is rather simple, if reprehensible.
Bloomberg doesn’t care if the FBI has access to information about whether or not suspected terrorists have purchased firearms. He knows they have access to that information if they want it. No, what Michael Bloomberg cares about is his long-running pet cause: shuttering the doors of firearms manufacturers.
Bloomberg is one of the founders of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the group’s principal financial supporter. He has spent roughly three million dollars of his own fortune on the group’s initiatives — including its primary goal of overturning the Tiahrt amendment.
The primary reason Bloomberg wants to defeat Tiahrt is that he hopes by defeating the law he can then obtain access to sensitive data maintained by the ATF in order to use it in civil trials against firearms dealers, distributors, and manufacturers. And note that Bloomberg’s goal is civil court. While he has very little chance at all of finding legitimate criminal charges against the shooting sports industry, a man with a personal fortune of billions could easily hope to bankrupt individual dealers and distributors if he had even the flimsiest of evidence to bring a battery of civil trials in play. Even though he would almost assuredly lose such trials, he could afford to; those defending themselves would be bankrupted proving their innocence.
If Bloomberg could strategically target the larger dealers and distributors — which is undoubtedly his goal — he could potentially bully the entire industry into drastically altering how they do business, presumably forcing certain kinds of firearms and firearm accessories he finds objectionable entirely off the market. He’s targeted gun dealers before with illegal sting operations that earned him a warning from the U.S. Department of Justice, and even railed against gun coatings.
The simple fact of the matter is that Mayor Mike fancies himself the mayor of America. He wants you to be subject to his laws and his judgment — by hook, by crook, or by lies.