Jun 29 2007

Panel rejects wider gun-purchase data sharing Senate committee heeds Shelby's urging

Birmingham News

By Staff Reports

A Senate committee on Thursday agreed, at the urging of Sen. Richard Shelby, to keep tighter restrictions on providing data about gun purchases to local law enforcement agencies.

Five Democrats, including Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., sided with the National Rifle Association in support of Shelby's amendment. The vote was a defeat for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who was trying to loosen the restrictions that gun control groups say hamper law enforcement's ability to trace guns used in crimes and arrest weapons traffickers.

Gun rights groups such as the NRA say the data-sharing restrictions protect gun-owner privacy and prevent lawsuits against gun dealers. Such restrictions have been in place for almost four years as part of a separate spending bill funding the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Shelby's amendment, if it becomes law, makes those restrictions permanent.

"This amendment has nothing to do with catering to the gun industry and everything to do with protecting the safety and privacy of American citizens and law enforcement officers," Shelby said before the vote.

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Shelby's amendment keeps information from the public that could help prevent crime.

"At a time when crime rates are rising, and corrupt gun dealers and traffickers are fueling gun violence in our neighborhoods, this action is a step in the wrong direction," he said.