WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 200 U.S. mayors urged Congress on Tuesday to stop “pandering” to the gun lobby and repeal an amendment that they say makes it harder for police to trace illegal firearms carried between states.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent mentioned as a possible presidential contender, helped lead the uphill bid to eliminate the amendment ahead of a vote on it this week by the House Appropriations Committee.
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, which says it has more than 225 mayors representing 50 million constituents, wants Congress to strike down the Tiahrt Amendment, a measure attached to a law enforcement funding bill every year since 2003.
The amendment, which imposes confidentiality limits on firearms trace data compiled by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is named for Rep. Todd Tiahrt, the Kansas Republican who first sponsored it.
Tiahrt had no immediate comment on the drive against it, a spokesman said.
But Bloomberg, flanked by mayors and police officers on Capitol Hill, declared, “The Tiahrt Amendment is the most anti-cop, soft-on-crime law Congress has passed in years.”
“It prevents our police officers from tracking the illegal gun trade, and locking up those who engage in it,” he said, adding that the September 11 attacks had shown the importance of all agencies sharing information at a federal and local level.
Yet supporters of the amendment appeared to have the votes to preserve the measure in a Congress reluctant to take on the powerful gun lobby.
Backers of the amendment say it aims to provide sensitive information on gun tracing just to law enforcement agencies and to keep it out of the hands of politicians and special interest groups. They say opening up the database more widely endangers undercover police and investigations.
Bloomberg said that how the House handles the amendment would be a test of the new Democrat-led Congress.
“Are they going to continue the old line — politics as usual, pandering to a handful of special interest groups? Or are they going to do what’s right?” he said.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat whose husband was killed by a gunman, said pro-gun groups were “holding us all hostage.” She urged citizens to pressure lawmakers before the amendment comes to a committee vote.
“Let the members of Congress understand there are actually other people out there that have a different opinion than the NRA,” she said, referring to the National Rifle Association, the most powerful U.S. gun lobby group.