One of those, as others and I have previously reported, was the NRA's efforts dating back to 1979 at keeping inert tracing identifiers called "taggants" out of gunpowder. The NRA successfully lobbied against President Clinton's push to add taggants to explosives after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. A National Research Council study in 1998 said not enough research had been done yet on the safety and efficacy of such taggants and more should be done. Since then, however, little research has been undertaken on the subject despite vast advances in other technology.
Taggants could have been used to trace the origin of the black powder that fueled the Boston Marathon bombs and the home-made "hand grenades" police said the Tsarnaev brothers threw at them during a shoot-out in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed:
In the April 15 Boston bombing, a manhunt for the killers that lasted days could have taken just hours if the explosives fragments littering the scene had contained taggants, law enforcement veterans say. Authorities may never be able to track the gun used to killLaw enforcement is being hamstrung in many instances because the gun lobby works behind the scenes to get "riders" attached to appropriations bills. Those riders often get little if any scrutiny. Please read below the fold to check out these hurdles to enforcing gun laws:
a transit police officer[MIT campus police officer Sean Collier] because its external identification number was worn down.
“Just imagine if, the day of the bombing, there were these taggants all over the scene and law enforcement could immediately trace it,” said David Chipman, who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 25 years and advocates for tougher laws. “Any of these things that allow law enforcement to trace these items have been thwarted.”
• The law requires that gun dealers keep records of sales for 20 years. When they go out of business, they must give their records to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. But ATF cannot digitize these records but must instead keep them on microfiche, which, at best, slows down efforts to trace guns used in crimes.
• Law enforcement against straw purchasers (who buy guns and transfer them to others barred from possessing firearms) is hampered by the requirement of the so-called Tiahrt Amendments of 2004, one of which, requires destruction of all background checks of gun buyers within 24 hours. This destruction makes it harder to recognize patterns that can be indicative of the activities of illegal straw purchasers. Before the NRA started pushing for the 24-hour destruction of records, they were kept by the FBI for 180 days, later reduced to 90 days.
• The Tiahrt Amendments also prevent the ATF from disclosing any trace data to the public, shield "trace data from subpoena in civil actions, and provided that these data are inadmissible in evidence." The author of the amendments, then-Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican, admitted at the time that “I wanted to make sure I was fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers.”
• In 2004, the NRA pushed another law barring the ATF mandating annual inventories. "In 2011," Przybyla writes, "the bureau found that almost 18,500 guns were unaccounted for during the course of 13,100 compliance inspections, according to the ATF."
• In 1996, then-Rep. Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, stuck a rider into a appropriations bill that barred the Centers for Disease Control from conducting research to “advocate or promote gun control.” The CDC's budget to prevent injuries from violence, including firearms, has since been cut by 96 percent and a chilling effect has settled over all CDC research related to gun violence.
As noted, none of what can be found in Przybyla's story is new. But in the wake of the Senate defeat of background checks and other reasonable legislation in April, it's valuable to be reminded of just how unreasonable the NRA, the other gun lobbies and their marionettes in Congress are.
The NRA, in particular, has made much of its supposed desire to see existing gun-related legislation enforced rather than passing new legislation. All in the name of protecting the legitimate rights of gun owners. In fact, the gun lobby has demonstrated a decades-long determination to undermine existing legislation and weaken its enforcement thus making it easier for criminals to acquire firearms and keep those acquisitions out of police view. That's a long, long way from promoting responsible gun ownership.