Gun-control Democrats are taking on the National Rifle Association, but the NRA seems to be winning, says the Associated Press. At issue is whether Congress should loosen restrictions on local law enforcement agencies’ ability to gain access to gun-purchasing data to trace the movement of illegal guns. The restrictions on such “trace data” began almost four years ago when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) succeeded in limiting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Explosives, commonly referred to as ATF, from publicly revealing information from its gun trace database.
Today, the battle shifts to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are among those trying to repeal or weaken the gun data restrictions when the panel acts on the ATF’s budget. Pro-gun rights stalwarts including Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ben Nelson, D-NE) are pushing back hard and seem poised for victory. The NRA says the data-sharing restrictions protect gun owners’ privacy, but mayors like New York’s Michael Bloomberg contend they hamper law enforcement authorities’ ability to trace illegal guns and arrest weapons traffickers. Gun control advocates have had little success on Capitol Hill since a Democratic-controlled Congress muscled through an assault weapons ban in 1994. Many Democrats blamed the ban for losses in rural seats as the party lost control of the House that year.