Gun Foes Charge Congress 'Hasn't Learned Lessons of 9/11'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - A coalition of anti-gun groups is accusing Congress of not having "learned the lessons of 9/11" for considering a bill that would "make it harder for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to share information to prevent violent crime and terrorist attacks."

However, an attorney who specializes in federal firearms laws called the claim "a publicity stunt" to try to take advantage of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"President Bush and Republicans in Congress have made homeland security their focus leading up to the mid-term elections," the Coalitions Against Trafficking Handguns stated in a news release.

"But if they had truly learned the lessons of 9/11, members of Congress wouldn't be erecting barriers to prevent local, state and federal law enforcement from working together," the group added.

The Coalitions specifically criticized members of the House Judiciary Committee for considering H.R. 5005, the "Firearms Corrections and Improvement Act," which was sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and has 119 cosponsors.

According to the release, the passage of H.R. 5005 would "handcuff law enforcement" by:
    Preventing police from conducting investigations across jurisdictional lines in order to establish patterns of criminal activity and threats to national security;Restricting law enforcement access to a national databank that traces guns used in crime;Barring law enforcement from learning which gun dealers are supplying the bulk of guns to criminals and would-be terrorists through an illegal pipeline; andKeeping local law enforcement authorities in the dark about possible criminal activities in their communities.
"After 9/11, we criticized law enforcement and intelligence agencies for not connecting the dots. So what are we doing now taking the dots off the paper?" asked Joe Vince, former chief of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and current president of the firm Crime Gun Solutions LLC.

"In the same manner that we are taking our fight to the source of the terrorists, let's take our fight against firearms-related violent crime to the source of the guns," Vince noted.

"In this post-9/11 world, police must have all the tools at their disposal to keep our communities safe," he added. "But if Congress passes this bill, it will have chosen to side with criminals and terrorists instead of law enforcement."

H.R. 5005 states that ATF trace data "shall not be admissible as evidence, and testimony or other evidence relying on the information shall not be admissible, in any civil action in a State or Federal court, or in any administrative proceeding other than a proceeding commenced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives." (Emphasis added.)

Attorney and firearms law expert Richard Gardiner told Cybercast News Service that "the bill says information can be released to law enforcement agencies -- federal, state or local -- in connection with a bona fide criminal investigation or prosecution, so law enforcement still would have access to the records if they request it."

Gardiner also said that using ATF trace data is not an effective means of fighting crime since "not all trace guns are 'crime guns,' and not all 'crime guns' are traced."

In fact, a law enforcement agency request for ATF to trace the ownership of a firearm -- from manufacturer to distributor to retailer to buyer -- does not necessarily indicate that the firearm was used in a crime or that it was even possessed illegally.

Gardiner also called the concept of tracing guns "a giant fraud" and "a worthless tool" because law enforcement officials "routinely trace many guns that are not connected to the commission of any crime."

As an example, Gardiner cited the case of a woman who was killed in her home, and when the police arrived to investigate, they found guns that had belonged to her husband and hadn't been used since his death 20 years earlier. "They traced all those guns," he said, "and, not surprisingly, came up with nothing."

Gardiner described the Coalitions' linking of gun control and 9/11 as "a publicity stunt" since "no guns were involved" in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists used knives, box cutters and fake bombs to turn airplanes into flying weapons.

Cybercast News Service previously reported that one of the most vocal opponents of H.R. 5005 is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was quoted in the Coalition's news release as emphasizing the need "to work together to 'connect the dots' in order to establish patterns of criminality and threats of danger."

But John Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told Cybercast News Service he believes Bloomberg and other "gun grabbers" have another reason for opposing the Act.

"If this bill were to pass, it would assure that they can't go into ATF records and use them for something not related to law enforcement or criminal prosecution purposes," such as taking gun dealers and manufacturers to court for the actions of criminals who misuse their products.

Snyder also dismissed the linking of gun control and 9/11 as "just fluff, a rather limp attempt to try and gin up support for what is basically a very bad idea to begin with."

Still, he agreed that America does face an ongoing terrorist threat, which means "that it is actually more important now for citizens to be able to protect themselves because nobody really knows where the terrorists might hit."

"We are the last line of defense for person and country against the international terrorist threat from abroad," Snyder added, "and an attack on the ability of people to acquire firearms to protect themselves and their families is a direct attack on the ability of the people to defend themselves against these horrendous terrorists."

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