THE Tiahrt Amendment
The Republican congressman from Kansas, Todd Tiahrt, 55, is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. In 2003, Tiahrt managed to insert an amendment into a House appropriations bill. The amendment targeted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Provisions of the amendment made sure that no federal money could be used to disclose to the public the contents of ATF’s gun trace database. This prevented the ATF from publishing reports that that show where crime guns are coming from.
Critics, who call Tiahrt a foot soldier for the NRA and a spokesman for the gun industry, say his amendment shields corrupt firearms dealers from investigation and stops the ATF from doing its job. The Tiahrt amendment has passed Congress each year since 2003. The amendments have become increasingly restrictive every year.
Interview with Todd Tiahrt
Todd Tiahrt is a Republican congressman and a gun advocate.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with Todd Tiahrt.
BOB MCKEOWN: Congressman, why was this amendment necessary in the first place?
TODD TIAHRT: Well it was clear there’s some vulnerabilities for police officers who are working under cover, the information is investigative specific and if information like that was made available to the general public, it could result in revealing police officers who are risking their lives by going under cover trying to take criminals off the street. So, because of the clarity of the problem the language was necessary.
BOB MCKEOWN: Were you aware of any single instance in which police officers and undercover officers fate has been...
TODD TIAHRT: I know of no names of any police officers and I hope that it never occurs, that’s one of the things. If you go to the internet today, you can find a website that says here are police informants. And you can get pictures and names and addresses. I would be very disturbed if we found a website on the internet that said here are undercover officers, here’s their names, here’s their home addresses and that’s what I’m trying to prevent.
BOB MCKEOWN: Certainly we have spoken to former members of that ATF and local law enforcement officials and none of the ones to who we have spoken have said they know of any single example of an investigation being compromised or an officer's safety being put at risk.
TODD TIAHRT: And that’s good and I’m very pleased about that and I hope it continues that way.
BOB MCKEOWN: But they do say and you have heard this over and over again that they believe their investigative capabilities have been restricted because of it. They've been effectively denied access to information they need to look at the overall pattern of; of illegal gun proliferation.
TODD TIAHRT: Well first of all I don’t agree with that because in any criminal case this information is available. So I think what the question is, is what do they want the data for? Is the data to investigate criminals? If so it’s available and it’s very clear in the language that it is available. So what do they want the information for?
BOB MCKEOWN: Well, what are you suggesting? What do you think they want it for if not investigative purposes?
TODD TIAHRT: I don’t know what they want it for and I think that’s a very good question that people need to ask because if it’s related to a crime, the information is completely available. It’s available for the police officers it’s available for the court system. It’s available through the disclosure in a criminal action to defence lawyers as well as the judges. So the information is available.
BOB MCKEOWN: On the other hand, there are more than 200 of the mayors of most of the country's major cities and a dozen other police organizations that are against your amendment and against what...
TODD TIAHRT: Well if you look at these organizations many of them are straw organizations. They are websites that were started by a single financier in this whole effort. And uh organizing these mayors uh again is a product of a financial effort by uh a few wealthy individuals. And so to say that there’s a large number of; of mayors that got up one morning and say gee we’ve got to go and repeal this language that’s simply not true. It was initiated b um a small group of people and they have a very specific purpose for doing it and uh I have become uh a target for this effort and um all I was trying to do was protect police officers.
BOB MCKEOWN: What is their ulterior motive then do you think?
TODD TIAHRT: I would like to know I think that would be a very interesting….
BOB MCKEOWN: What are you suggesting?
TODD TIAHRT: I’m suggesting that in my effort to protect police officers somehow I have uh either confused or upset them. And I think the basic question is why do you want the information? Why do you want to expose undercover police officers and I think that’s a very bad thing to do. The fraternal order of police things that’s a very bad thing to do.
BOB MCKEOWN: And….
TODD TIAHRT: And the ATF thinks that’s a very bad thing to do and many people who are working for the ATF think that’s a very bad thing to do.
BOB MCKEOWN: The members of this coalition who are some very experienced and substantial people, mayors of 200 of the country's largest cities, say you know what, this amendment restricts our ability to take guns off the streets.
TODD TIAHRT: Well we first of all you said very experienced they’re very experienced in politics I would have to agree that’s a true statement they are very experienced in politics. But when it comes to protecting police officers, I would like to see their credentials. Most of them have ulterior motives. They also control who is hired and fired within their city and for example the police chiefs. And you can find examples, very clear examples where policemen in very high positions have actually changed their position on the very language that we’re speaking about after receiving pressure from these very experienced people very experienced in politics. …
BOB MCKEOWN: I’m just trying to get at what you think that higher priority ulterior motive may be?
TODD TIAHRT: I don’t know and that’s what’s peculiar to me because you’ve mentioned that there are 200 people who are very experienced in politics that are out there trying to establish some higher priority which they have not conveyed to me. Even though I have met with the; the uh the initiator of all the activity Mr. Bloomberg from; from New York. I still have not gotten a clear idea as to what their higher motives are. A motive that’s higher than protecting police officers.
BOB MCKEOWN: Does this evolve down the right between you and all those mayors among other things evolve into the place the second amendment has in U.S. life and the affairs of this nation?
TODD TIAHRT: I think it really evolves down to my original intent which was to protect police officers from being exposed on the internet and placing them and their families in jeopardy and that’s the soul purpose of what I had done with this; this what’s called now today the Tiahrt amendment.