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Obama Not Fulfilling Campaign Promises on Gun Control

CHICAGO – President Obama broke his campaign pledge to the
American people last week when he refused to strip all of the dangerous Tiahrt
restrictions out of his proposed budget to Congress. The Tiahrt Amendments
prohibit the public release of gun crime trace data from ATF, a vital measure to
help stop illegal gun trafficking into urban areas and weapons flowing into

The President promised an era of transparency and open government, but
instead caved under the gun lobby’s radical agenda and influence. The result is
that more American communities will continue to suffer from the horrific toll of
gun violence.

Perhaps most galling is that on President Obama’s official White
web site, under his urban policy agenda, the President advocated for removing
the Tiahrt restrictions. That official White web page under urban policy has now changed

On Mr. Obama’s first full day as President, he held a press conference and
gave an explicit directive about open government – an order the President has
now suddenly tossed aside when it comes to gun violence.

(See text below, or watch the first minute of Obama’s press
conference; also posted on

President Obama stated:

“The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the
way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the
American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re
being made, and whether their interests are being well served.

"The directives I am giving my administration today on how to interpret the
Freedom of Information Act will do just that. For a long time now there has been
too much secrecy in [Washington D.C.].

"The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing
something to the American people then it should not be disclosed. That era is
now over.

"Starting today, every agency and department should know that this
administration’s stands on the side not on those who seek to withhold
information, but those seek to make it known
. …The Freedom of
Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our
government honest and transparent”

Although President Obama’s budget lifted restrictions on police chiefs and
now permits law enforcement officials to access ATF’s trace data and reports,
the President went out of his way to include additional language that “no person
described herein shall knowingly and publicly disclose such data.” In effect,
the President’s budget prohibits this important data from being made accessible
to mayors, civic leaders, researchers, gun violence prevention advocates and the
American people.

Before 2004, ATF used to release its gun crime trace data to the general
public. Advocates for government transparency and gun violence prevention are
simply calling for a return to the practice of full public disclosure that Obama
campaigned on.

The President also left intact various anti-law enforcement measures. According to, the
“Tiahrt Amendments require the Justice Department to destroy the record of a
buyer whose NICS background check was approved within 24 hours. This makes it
harder to catch law-breaking gun dealers who falsify their records, and it makes
it more difficult to identify and track straw purchasers who buy guns on behalf
of criminals who wouldn’t be able to pass a background check.”

Also, while federally licensed gun dealers must notify ATF if they discover
that guns from their inventories have been lost or stolen, the Tiahrt
Amendments prevent ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual physical
inventory checks
to detect losses and thefts. An estimated 30,000
guns go “missing” from licensed gun dealers
every year due do lax record
keeping and enforcement.

“For President Obama who said he would go to Washington to make government
transparent, this is a gross hypocrisy and a complete slap in the face to
advocates, gun violence victims and survivors who are fighting hard to protect
our communities from illegal gun trafficking,” said Bryan Miller, the Executive
Director of Ceasefire NJ whose brother, an FBI agent, was shot and killed in the
line of duty from an armed assailant. “The President said he believes in open
government, but his agenda quickly craters under the gun lobby’s influence in
Washington. It’s a fight the President cannot continue to run away from, nor can
members of Congress.”

Sally Slovenski, Executive Director of Freedom States Alliance said of the
President’s about face on releasing ATF gun crime trace data: “We are deeply
frustrated by the President’s actions to withhold important information from the
American people, especially those dedicated professionals working to protect our
country from gun violence.

“We believed President Obama when he said that the American people can have
confidence again in our government, and that no longer would special-interests
prevail over the will of the American people. The President’s easy acceptance of
the gun lobby’s radical agenda, and his failure to stand up for the safety of
our country challenges our hope that President Obama will be the ‘change we can
believe in’ with respect to reducing gun violence in our country.”


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