A key congressional committee dealt a major blow to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign against illegal firearms yesterday, refusing to allow police departments broader access to data that tracks guns sales, the New York Times reports. The bill restricting release of the information was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, paralleling a Senate committee’s vote. Bloomberg, who recently left the Republican Party, has traveled the U.S. for more than a year, lobbying Congress, rallying hundreds of other mayors and financing a media campaign aimed at the end of what he once called a “godawful piece of legislation.”
That legislation, known as the Tiahrt Amendment, for Representative Todd Tiahrt, the Republican from Kansas who introduced it, is intended to keep trace data, which shows the path from manufacturer to retail purchase of a gun recovered in a crime, from being used in civil suits against gun dealers and manufacturers. Under the provision approved by the House committee yesterday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can release the information only to law enforcement agencies or officials in connection with criminal investigations or to federal agencies for national security or intelligence purposes. Some law enforcement officials who support the measure have argued that broader release of the information could jeopardize their investigations. Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said that the vote showed that members of Congress were convinced that it was not worth risking the lives of law enforcement officers and the privacy rights of gun owners “simply to pursue a failed political agenda” of using law enforcement data for suits against the gun industry.