McCain On Crime Gun Trace Data

During Sen. John McCain's speech to a National Rifle Association gathering in D.C. in September 2007, he said the following:

So you know, my friends, you're a sophisticated crowd. You know politics and you know politicians. You're pretty used to hearing aspirants for public office come before you and pledge fealty to the cause of the Second Amendment. You know you need to dig into a politician's record to find out where they really stand. You know some will change their positions or have little record for you to judge, and my friends, that's not the case with me.

While Sen. McCain did reference his support for closing the gun show loophole, as I've discussed before, he implied that this was the only gun control issue where he parted ways with the NRA.

My staff did a little digging and found an interesting passage from a longer floor speech Sen. McCain delivered to the Senate in January 2004. In it, he takes three common-sense stands in favor of what are today key items in the Brady Campaign's legislative agenda.

First, Sen. McCain spoke against the restrictions on ATF trace data sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), even as those restrictions were pushed by the National Rifle Association. (As Rep. Tiahrt said himself, "I wanted to make sure I was fulfilling the needs of my friends who are firearms dealers." NRA officials "were very helpful in making sure I had my bases covered," Rep. Tiahrt said.)

Next, Sen. McCain spoke against the requirement to destroy records of firearms transactions within 24 hours, preferring the 90-day rule that gave law enforcement time to catch prohibited purchasers not immediately rejected by Brady criminal background checks.

Finally, Sen. McCain spoke against the prohibition on ATF to conduct inventory audits of licensed gun dealers, which allowed law enforcement to keep track of "lost" or "stolen" weapons - like the Bushmaster assault rifle used by the DC snipers.

For some reason, there has been little discussion of Sen. McCain's 2004 statements about the Tiahrt restrictions against ATF, the 24-hour record destruction rule, and the inventory audit procedures of gun stores. There is no mention of them on his campaign Web site, in his speeches to the NRA, nor in the recent discussions he had with NRA leadership.

Here are Sen. McCain's comments from 2004:

"Instant Check/Gun Provision

Mr. President, let me state from the outset that I take a backseat to no one in my support for Second Amendment rights, and I have supported nearly every law that protects the rights of law abiding gun owners since first coming to Washington. But there is a special interest rider included in this Omnibus appropriations bill that's absolutely appalling. The House sponsor of this provision has argued that it benefits gun owners, but the only gun owners it seems to help are those who have broken the law!

This rider has three major provisions - all of them unnecessary for gun owners and none of them helpful for law enforcement. First, it requires that background check approval records be destroyed within 24 hours instead of the current policy of 90 days. Proponents argue that keeping these records for 90 days constitutes a national firearm registry.

I want to be very clear that I oppose federal registration of firearms. I also want to be equally clear that our current policy of keeping these records for 90 days does not constitute in any way, shape, or form a national registry. It's a phony issue.

The 90 days retention allows the NICS system to correct mistakes that occur when they accidentally approve someone who should have been denied a gun in the first place. This happens about 500 times a year, according to GAO. Nearly all of these false approvals are because of missing domestic violence records. So, as far as I can tell, this provision benefits no one except those who should have been denied a firearm, but were not.

The second provision prevents ATF from conducting an inventory audit of licensed gun stores. This means that ATF auditors will have no way of knowing if a gun store is missing firearms - a sure sign that they are selling guns illegally and without the proper background checks.

Mr. President, in Tacoma, Washington, ATF auditors discovered 233 firearms missing from Bull's Eye Shooters Supply store. One of those weapons was used by the accused DC-area snipers. Why are we putting special language in a must-pass federal spending bill to protect a store like Bull's Eye? Consider the potential consequences.

And a third provision prohibits the public release of crime gun trace information. This information is not top secret data that jeopardizes our national security, or hinders law enforcement. We cannot have a government that operates in secret and refuses to release information that shows where criminals have obtained a gun.

This provision has no support from the law enforcement community, and was even opposed by Chairman Young and Subcommittee Chairman Wolf. Yet, here it is today, included in this terrible bill. Mr. President, this language is an embarrassment to law abiding gun owners and is a slap in the face to law enforcement."

It would be very interesting to hear whether Sen. McCain still supports these positions today.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on and the Huffington Post.)

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