More than 50 mayors gathered yesterday in Washington to urge Congress to crack down on the trade of illegal firearms, reports the New York Times. The session, led by Michael Bloomberg of New York and Thomas Menino of Boston, generated a small protest by advocates for gun owners and dealers. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will seek federal legislation to give cities greater access to trace data, which law enforcement authorities can use to determine the origin of guns involved in crimes. A trace tracks a weapon's sales history, from manufacturer to distributor to retailer to buyer.
A law passed each year since 2003 has banned the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing gun-trace data, except to police officials and prosecutors investigating or prosecuting a crime. The provision prevents the data from use in civil lawsuits against gun dealers or manufacturers. Four gun-rights groups held a news conference to denounce Bloomberg, “the Manhattan gun grabber.” They questioned the legality of Bloomberg's use of private investigators to conduct undercover sting operations. The operations have documented straw purchases, in which proxies sign the paperwork on behalf of buyers who would not be eligible to buy a gun or pass required background checks. Such operations have been the basis for civil lawsuits by the city against dealers.