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 House.gov web site, under his urban policy agenda, the President advocated for removing the Tiahrt restrictions. That official White House.gov 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 YouTube:
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 ProtectPolice.org, 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.”