Gun Violence Pressures Democrats to Revisit Gun Trace Data Laws

In response to the recent crime wave, Democrats are pressing for new federal legislation on collecting gun data, raising concerns about the privacy of legal gun owners.

Mayor Adams, in his Blueprint to End Gun Violence, calls for federal legislation that will give law enforcement access to gun data stored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

That would require repealing the so-called “Tiahrt Amendment,” a series of “riders” attached to the Department of Justice appropriations bill that safeguards gun owner data from being released by ATF.

Tiahrt also guarantees background check data to be destroyed within 24 hours and prohibits ATF from requiring gun dealers to submit inventories to law enforcement.

The original 2003 provision was made permanent in 2007. In 2009, it was amended to strengthen protections for undercover law enforcement operations and confidential informants.

Although Tiahrt prohibits the Department of Justice from creating a federal registry, gun owners express concern for ATF’s growing database of nearly one billion.

By federal law, the dealer keeps records of gun sales for 20 years. ATF scans the records into a digital database searchable only by serial number. It also collects all records from dealers who go out of business.

Decentralization protects against government abuse of gun owner data. Some worry the Biden administration’s policy on combating gun violence is clamping down on legal gun owners.

“Biden’s proposed regulation is a provision that would mean every single Firearm Transaction Record going forward would eventually be sent to ATF’s registry in West Virginia,” said Aiden Johnston of the Gun Owners of America.

“Neither ATF nor Biden’s anti-gun appointees know anything about the firearms and accessories they seek to regulate,” said Johnston.

The NRA echoed a similar sentiment while claiming the Biden administration could utilize ATF’s gun data to trace AR-15 rifles, hinting at Democrats’ “gun grab” initiatives.

Under the original Tiahrt provision, trace information is only entitled to law enforcement “in connection with and for use in a bona fide criminal investigation or prosecution” or in administrative actions by the ATF.

Still, Democrats see Tiahrt as an obstacle to federal agencies’ efficiency. For one, destroying gun purchaser records within 24 hours limits ATF’s ability to find prohibited persons who were able to purchase guns.

These records could potentially prevent casualties during emergency calls by giving law enforcement information on whether a person at the residence owns a gun. The data could also assist in the relinquishment of firearms by convicted felons.

Chuck Canterbury, former National President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), argues “firearm trace data is collected by ATF for public safety, not for civil litigation.”

Canterbury believes the average cop does not support a federal registry: “Officers in the field who are actually working illegal gun cases know that releasing sensitive information about pending cases can jeopardize the integrity of the investigation or even place the lives of undercover officers in danger.”

None of that seems to matter to Democrats, who are more focused on excessive regulation of law-abiding citizens.

“We must repeal the Tiahrt Amendment,” says Mayor Adams, “(it) has weakened law enforcement’s efforts to prevent gun crimes and limited the public’s ability to study gun violence and trafficking.”

In step with Mayor Adams, Gov. Hochul believes gun tracing to be paramount, stressing the ease of interplay between federal agencies through her “interstate gun-tracing consortium.” In her 2023 Executive Budget, she allocates an additional $215,000 for a “gun crime tracing team.”

Democrats have made it a point to stress “gun trafficking” as the primary source of gun crime. Now, they are looking to streamline data by granting federal agencies access to legal gun owner data.

The ”Gun Records Restoration and Preservation Act,” sponsored by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, aims to do just that by eliminating Tiahrt’s ban on a federal registry through the “consolidation or centralization in the Department of Justice of firearms acquisition and disposition records.”

The Democrat-sponsored bill also looks to repeal other provisions of Tiahrt, including the required deletion of instant background check records within 24 hours.

A second bill, the Federal Firearm Licensee Act, sponsored by Illinois Rep. Kelly Robin, calls for Tiahrt’s repeal and ATF to “establish and maintain electronic, searchable databases of all records regarding the importation, production, shipment, receipt, sale or other disposition of firearms required to be submitted by licensees to the Attorney General.”

The most recent of the three, the “Trafficking Reduction And Criminal Enforcement (TRACE) Act” sponsored by Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, looks to do more than just repeal Tiahrt but also add a hidden serial number to all new guns. The serial number will be “located inside the receiver of the firearm or that is visible only in infrared light.”

All three bills aim to centralize gun owner data at the expense of lawful gun owners. ATF has advocated against a central database in fear of government overreach, but it’s not the potential abuse that concerns Democrats.

In light of Biden’s poor approval rating and midterms around the corner, Democrats could leverage the “gun crime” issue to successfully repeal Tiahrt, if not make a case for further restrictions on gun owners.

Anti-Asian Hate Crime Stats Could Be Wrong, Expect Higher Numbers for 2022

Anti-Asian hate incidents could continue their upward trajectory even with inaccurate or underreporting as agencies and initiatives expand.

New York seeks to combat its largest increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes. Incidents targeting Asians rose 343% in 2021. 538 total reports were filed in the same year–a 96% increase from 2020’s high of 275.

Federal and state agencies coordinate the recording and tracking of hate crimes. According to the Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center (CJSAC) of West Virginia’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the hate crime stats might be higher.

Through the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) of 1990, the FBI established the national hate crime data collection program. It requires the attorney general to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Hate Crime Statistics is a voluntary reporting system that certain jurisdictions don’t use, resulting in lower reported cases.

Other stats are aggregated by NGOs. For instance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) receives its data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Both agencies are considered to be at the top for accuracy.

Media outlets, such as NBC, use the University of Michigan’s Virulent Hate Project. Its Anti-Asian Racism in 2020 study reviewed 4,337 news articles published between January 1 and December 31, 2020, reporting 1,023 incidents. 112 incidents involved physical harassment and violence.

There were only 16 examples where the offenders were explicitly identified in the source articles. Three perpetrators were identified as black men.

In 2020, more than 100 Asian women were victims of a black gang in San Jose. The gang was linked to 177 robberies targeting women almost all of Asian descent. The perpetrators used ethnic slurs to refer to their victims, making the motivation apparent. This one story alone demonstrates that not all studies are accurate or equal.

Still, the CJSAC stresses the most significant problem in hate crime statistics is officer misclassification of incidents. Its studies demonstrate officers often fail to identify hate crimes in serious crimes such as murder or torture, making some experts believe they cannot detect bias in minor offenses either.

The CJSAC found that officers assigned to special bias crime units tend to face ridicule as not “normal cops.” Due to personal beliefs, officers may not enforce hate crime laws too.

Lack of personal incentive or disincentive for reporting further reduces the number of reported incidents. In some cases, victims don’t report crimes or incidents.

Many cases go “unfounded,” meaning they are reported to law enforcement but subsequently determined false or baseless. Criminal motivation isn’t always so clear-cut, but police tend to believe the crime must be premeditated for there to be a motivated bias.

Unfounded cases were found to contribute to the overcounting of actual hate incidents, according to the CJSAC. Unfounded cases falsely labeled as hate incidents add to the inflation.

The CJSAC study also found officers put extra consideration before categorizing a hate crime or incident. This may be an unwillingness to pursue a serious indictment and possible conviction.

Reporting of hate crimes is also complicated by state-determined protected classes. West Virginia, California, and Iowa recognize political affiliation, while most others do not. Protected class status differs from state to state.

Another perspective is the inflation of hate crime rates by perception. According to Pew Research Center, eight-in-ten Asian Americans said violence against them is increasing. 45% claimed to have experienced an incident tied to their racial or ethnic background since the pandemic.

Whether the reported incidents are real or perceived hate incidents is inconsequential, as they typically aren’t scrutinized further or minimized.

Democrats took the anti-Asian hate crime aiming at hate crime legislation. New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced the Hate Crimes Analysis & Review Act as a standardized system for New York police, courts, and prosecutors in reporting hate crime incidents.

Similarly, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law intended to speed up the review of pandemic-related hate crimes and provide grants to local law enforcement to improve reporting.

Both initiatives look to centralize hate crime data. Centralization may solve part of the accuracy problem, but it’s also dependent upon state level compliance and methodology.