Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20501
RE: Presidential Commission on Gun Violence
Vice President Biden:
I write to you today in your capacity as Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Gun Violence. But first: a very happy new year to you, your family and your staff.
I fondly recall learning to shoot a .22 rifle at Boy Scout camp oh those many years ago. I've had little direct experience with guns since then. But I do not write to you today as an anti-gun polemicist.
My partner's sister has a close relationship with the family of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Consequently, I hear stories of the aftermath of that tragedy. But I do not write to you today as someone who claims any special insight into the horror of what humans are capable.
Rather, I write to you as a great believer in data and thoughtful consideration based in the empirical. I'm certain that you will receive a wealth of advice on approaches to take towards gun control. Accordingly, I'll restrict my suggestions to you to just two issues.
First, I suggest you do all within your power to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment. As you know, the Tiahrt Amendment prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "from releasing information from its firearms trace database to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or prosecutor in connection with a specific criminal investigation" -- and greatly limits the kind of information that can be released even to law enforcement.
Without the data on crimes that were committed with assault weapons, we cannot, as a society, have a rational discussion about gun violence. The ATF has information about the types of guns that were used in shootings, but are prohibited from sharing with the media, researchers and the public. It seems obvious why the gun lobby would want to restrict this information from public eyes. But the time of keeping it hidden must come to an end.
Therefore, I hope you can support including in any legislation that arises from the Commission on Gun Violence a provision directing the ATF to release all of the relevant information they have collected to date on the use of firearms, and to periodically (and thoroughly) update and release it to the public.
Second, I'd suggest that you look into federalizing regulations not just for assault-type weapons, but also for concealed weapon permits. As you know, Marianne Hammer of the NRA has been effective in liberalizing state concealed weapon legislation (initially in Florida) to so-called "shall issue" laws. The effect of this, as intended by the NRA, is that states no longer have discretion in issuing concealed carry weapon permits.
Mr. Vice President, I wish you luck with this Commission and in all of your pursuits and hope that one thing that can come of our re-evaluating our guns laws, is to assure that we take advantage of all of the information that we have about their uses, illegal and legal.