AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File

Baltimore’s Lawsuit Seeks to Bypass Federal Law. Here’s Why the Effort is Useless.

The city of Baltimore is pretty hostile toward guns. Officials blame the gun industry for the city’s violent crime problem, like a lot of other anti-gun officials do.

The problem for them is that they don’t get access to all of the information they’d like. They want to know where the gun came from in every instance.

Federal law, however, prohibits the release of that information, in part because people like the city “leaders” in Baltimore would try to hurt those businesses.

But Baltimore is suing to gain access to that information just the same.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott doesn’t know where the guns came from or how they ended up in his city, but he is almost certain they were trafficked across state lines.
Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show most firearms recovered from crimes in Maryland do not originate there but only law enforcement officials can see the weapons’ history. Public officials, such as Mayor Scott, are barred by a provision in federal law known as the Tiahrt Amendment from accessing the ATF firearms trace database, the only source for information about the manufacturer, distributor, point of sale and recovery of guns linked to violent crime nationwide.
Scott and the city council of Baltimore are suing the ATF, arguing he and local lawmakers cannot stop the flow of guns without knowing where they come from, hobbling their efforts to spot trends and hold unlawful dealers accountable.
The mayor says Baltimore has no gun stores but 84% of homicides reported in the city since 2007 were firearm deaths, according to city officials in the suit.
In its lawsuit, the city said the ATF adopted an overly narrow interpretation of the law, arguing it cannot prevent the disclosure under the 2009 Open FOIA Act. More than 60 Democrats in Congress seemingly agree, penning a letter to President Joe Biden in September, urging him to direct the Department of Justice to review its interpretation of the amendment.
“When you’re dealing with an issue as complicated as gun violence, you need every single tool at your disposal and as long as we don’t have access to this information, we won’t have every tool,” Scott told CNN.

The problem is that even if he had the information, it wouldn’t do Scott nearly as much good as he likes to believe.

We know that most guns that are used in violent crime aren’t obtained through lawful means. They’re either stolen or the result of a straw purchase. That means the origin point for such weapons is irrelevant because no one did anything wrong at the point of sale.

After all, they’re after “unlawful dealers,” or so they claim. The truth is that the unlawful dealers won’t show up in those records because they’re unlawful dealers–they’re not FFL holders, for one thing.

Oh sure, there may be a handful that aren’t following the law perfectly, but guns originally being bought at a particular gun store doesn’t actually mean all that much. For example, a straw buyer may just be hitting the gun shop closest to his neighborhood–which, when you consider zoning laws, may be a factor beyond the store owner’s control–and is jumping through every required hoop and not setting off a single red flag for anyone.

If Baltimore gets this information, it’s not going to make their city any safer. They’re not capable of understanding that the issue isn’t guns, but people. They have too many people who want to hurt others for various reasons and even if the guns went away tomorrow, they’d still have an issue.

But then again, this isn’t really about results, it’s about looking good while pretending to address the problem and nothing else.

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