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Wading into the dicey field of gun rights, candidate Barack Obama promised to repeal a law that's near the top of the most-wanted list for the gun control lobby: the so-called Tiahrt amendment, which limits how much information the federal government can disclose about guns it traces.
The amendment is named for its original sponsor, U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., and has been tacked to a federal spending bill each year since 2003. The main point of contention was a provision in the amendment that forbids the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from sharing information about guns it traced with state and local police agencies except in the course of a criminal investigation.
The amendment also exempted such data from disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act; required the FBI to destroy the data it gathers for approved gun buyers within 24 hours; and prohibited the government from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual inventories to determine how many firearms are "missing" and possibly on the black market.
Opponents of the amendment, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, complained it hindered law enforcement and made it harder to identify the sources of guns that were ending up on the streets of big cities with tough gun restrictions. In May, after prodding by the Obama administration, the House agreed to a relatively minor change: The ATF now can share information with state and local police about any gun it traces, regardless of whether it was used in a crime. That change was then included in the $1.1 trillion spending bill that cleared Congress in December.
The other elements of the Tiahrt amendment remained the same, including the ban on releasing gun-tracing data to the public. Although the White House pushed for -- and got -- a change to the most contentious element of the amendment, the change falls far short of a repeal, as Obama had promised gun control advocates.
For that reason, PolitiFact rates President Obama"s progress on this promise as a Compromise.
Editor's note: We have modified the headline of this promise to more accurately describe it. Previously, the promise was "Repeal the law that limits gun tracing by law enforcement."
E-mail interview with Wendy Knox, press secretary for Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., Dec. 15, 2009
Tiahrt Trace Data Amendment
Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- Tiahrt Amendment
Mayors Against Illegal Guns - Statement on Obama's action on the Tiahrt Amendment
National Rifle Associaiton - Tiahrt Amendment fact sheet
Washington Post editorial, Obama and gun control