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Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

JULY 11, 2006
1:07 PM

CONTACT:  Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
(202) 898-0792

Law Enforcement Leaders Urge Congress To Stop Shielding Rogue Gun Dealers

WASHINGTON - July 11 - Eighteen regional, state and local police organizations, 35 chiefs of individual police departments, and eight former senior officials of a Federal law enforcement agency are urging Congress to stop blocking the release of data that reveals which U.S. gun dealers sell the most illegal guns.

The restrictions are part of a spending bill that faces committee action this week, and are also the subject of a bill pending in the House of Representatives.  Police chiefs from
The restrictions block the disclosure of the horrendous records of gun dealers like California’s Trader Sports and Maryland’s Valley Guns, whose notorious records only became public because the dealers sued the Federal government to try to avoid being shut down.  

The police leaders, including the Major Cities Chiefs, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the Police Foundation and the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, wrote in a letter to Congress dated yesterday that the bill and the appropriations amendment could damage criminal investigations and even put police officer’s lives at risk.  

The legislation, they wrote, “will have long lasting and chilling adverse effects on the use of crime gun trace data; may impede criminal investigations and the prosecution of individuals involved in criminal activity that crosses jurisdictional lines; and could have adverse consequences for law enforcement operations and officer safety.”  

The former officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), including former ATF Directors Steven Higgins (who served two Republican presidents from 1982-1993) and Rex Davis (who served one Republican and one Democratic President, from 1970 to 1978) wrote in a letter released today that the bill would “have drastic adverse impacts on the use of crime gun trace data, which will prevent investigations and prosecutions of criminal activity that cross jurisdictional lines.  This legislation will impede the development of effective law enforcement strategies to combat gun violence, and could even jeopardize officer safety.”

The letters can be accessed at

“Supporters of this legislation say its purpose is to protect law enforcement investigations.  But scores of law enforcement leaders say it actually would undermine enforcement of our gun laws and protect corrupt dealers,” said Paul Helmke, the new President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to work on the appropriations bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State today and again Thursday.  In previous years, the legislation has mandated that Federal law enforcement agents not share data that reveals which gun dealers supply the most guns to criminals.  The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is expected to consider separate legislation, H.R. 5005, in the coming weeks that would make the restrictions permanent.  

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it a “God-awful piece of legislation” when he testified against the bill in March. “H.R. 5005 has nothing to do with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but it has everything to do with illegal guns and the dangers they pose to our police officers and citizens,” he said.

The crime gun trace data maintained by the ATF shows that about one percent of the gun dealers in America sell more than 50 percent of the guns recovered in crimes.  In the case of two dealers with particularly galling records, the only reason their records became public was because they sued the government to try to avoid being shut down.  Trader Sports of San Leandro, California and Valley Gun of Baltimore, Maryland are representative, the data shows, of the worst gun dealers in the nation.

Law enforcement traced 483 crime guns to Valley Gun from 1996 to 2000 alone, ranking it 37 out of nearly 80,000 gun dealers nationwide in total crime guns traced to their stores. Valley Gun’s firearms have been linked to at least 11 homicides and 41 assaults. The ATF documented over 900 violations of federal law at Valley Gun, including illegal gun sales and the disappearance of more than 1/4 of the shop’s entire inventory – at least 422 firearms “missing” from the store with no record of sale.

Between 2003 and 2005, about one of every eight guns sold by Trader Sports was recovered in a crime.  In 2005, Trader Sports had the second highest number of crime gun traces of any gun dealer in the nation. Justice Department documents say Trader Sports has committed “thousands of violations” of Federal law.  

Earlier this year, the Brady Campaign announced a campaign against illegal guns, a comprehensive strategy to combat illegal gun trafficking. The organization is working with grassroots advocates and community leaders to stop the flow of illegal guns into our communities. 


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