It has been two years since the federal ban on assault-style weapons expired, notes the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. There is no way to know if the number of crimes in which they have been used has risen because the public and law enforcement agencies no longer have access to information they could routinely get in the past. During the Clinton administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms started analyzing its vast database and in 2000 released its “Commerce in Firearms” report. This compilation, which was supposed to be issued annually, was full of information about gun sales as well as sales patterns of weapons used to commit crimes.
In 2003, Congress barred ATF from spending money to analyze its gun-crime database or making any data available to the public. This month, lawmakers ares expected to vote on a package of bills that would make it harder to track other kinds of information. The gun industry says the data have no value to the public and that law enforcement agencies could use it to harass dealers. That’s nonsense, says the Times: “What they’re probably worried about is that such information could show how to make gun-control laws more effective.”