Acting Director of ATF: Don't buy Bloomberg claims about firearms trace data

By Michael J. Sullivan

During the past several weeks, numerous questions and articles have
arisen in the media, regarding the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to share firearms trace data among
members of the law-enforcement community. With the recent tragic events
surrounding the senseless criminal use of firearms; I felt the need to
clarify this important issue.

Firearms trace data is critically important information developed by ATF
to assist state and local law-enforcement in investigating and solving
violent crimes. This data tracks the transfer of a firearm from the
manufacturer to the gun's first purchaser, and can assist law
enforcement in ultimately pinpointing the individual who used the gun to
commit a particular crime.

...ATF considers this information law-enforcement-sensitive because it is
often the first investigative lead in a case. We treat it no differently
than fingerprint matches and other crime-scene information, since
disclosure outside of law enforcement can tip off criminals to the
investigation, compromise cases and endanger the lives of undercover
officers, witnesses and confidential sources.

Our agency routinely shares trace data with state and local
law-enforcement agencies in support of investigations within their
respective jurisdictions. Once a requesting agency receives
law-enforcement-sensitive trace data from ATF, it becomes the agency's
data to disseminate and share with other law-enforcement entities as it
deems appropriate.

Let me be clear: neither the congressional language nor ATF rules
prohibit the sharing of trace data with law enforcement conducting
criminal investigations, or place any restrictions on the sharing of
trace data with other jurisdictions once it is in the hands of state or
local law enforcement. In fact, multi-jurisdictional trace data is also
utilized by ATF and shared with fellow law-enforcement agencies to
identify firearm-trafficking trends and leads. Additionally, nothing
prohibits ATF from releasing our own reports that analyze trace-data
trends that could be used by law enforcement.

Click here to read the entire op-ed from the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Department of Justice.


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