Lies and Misdirection: NYC Mayor Blames City’s Crime Spike on Federal Tiahrt Amendment

New York Mayor Eric Adams
Courtesy Eric Adams Facebook

New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams’ has a new bogeyman to blame for his inability – or unwillingness – to seriously tackle crime in the Big Apple.

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice just released the Annual Report on Firearm Trafficking and the reason, they say, crime is still plaguing the city is because federal law does not allow them to publicly “name-and-shame” firearm retailers in other states with no connection to the crimes committed in the City That Never Sleeps.

“The main impediment to collecting and accessing data that may inform both policy and law enforcement based solutions to gun trafficking in NYC are the federal Tiahrt Amendments, enacted originally in fiscal year 2003 but revised several times since, with significant changes in fiscal years 2008 and 2012,” the report stated in the Executive Summary. If that’s at all believable to you, I’ve got a fake Rolex on the inside of my coat to sell you.

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice is attempting to politicize the issue of criminal law enforcement with misdirection and half-truths. The mayor’s office incorrectly claims that the Tiahrt Amendment prevents the city from collecting and accessing data to inform policy decisions. This is untrue.

Coordinated Tiahrt Attacks

Firearm trace data is – and has always been – available to law enforcement for criminal investigations. The Tiahrt Amendment allows law enforcement to have access to and share trace information with others in law enforcement. It merely prevents the public disclosure of this sensitive data outside of law enforcement. New York City officials are untruthful when they claim law enforcement and policy decisions cannot be made without public disclosure of protected firearm trace data. The same is true of Baltimore’s identical claims. These officials are more interested in conducting a “name-and-shame” campaign and shifting the blame for their own failures to properly address spiraling crime.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Baltimore’s Mayor Brandon Scott claimed the same thing. He brought a lawsuit – backed by the Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety (more on Bloomberg in a moment) – against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for not releasing protected firearm trace data. The ATF didn’t release it to Baltimore because federal law prevents it. NSSF moved to intervene to ensure this sensitive information remains protected from political gamesmanship.

Further, the information is potentially the starting point for a criminal investigation. It’s incomplete, is often still being used in criminal investigations and could jeopardize those ongoing investigations, the law enforcement running down leads to lock up criminals and put cooperating witnesses, including firearms retailers, in danger.

The ATF noted in their 1998 Crime Gun Trace Analysis Reports when they wrote, “The appearance of [a licensed dealer] or a first unlicensed purchaser of record in association with a crime gun or in association with multiple crime guns in no way suggests that either the federal firearms licensed dealer (FFL) or the first purchaser has committed criminal acts. Rather, such information may provide a starting point for further and more detailed investigation.”

This is also why Congress, the Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF and law enforcement, including the nation’s largest police organization, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), all agree on the importance of protecting this sensitive data. Access to gun crime trace data is – and should only be – available to law enforcement in connection with a bona fide criminal investigation.

Yes, the ATF Violated Tiahrt Protections

That might leave some scratching their heads, wondering didn’t ATF just willingly hand over a list of firearm retailers to USA Today and Brady United, that identified thousands of firearm retailers that had 25 firearm traces within a year? Isn’t that a violation of federal law?

Yes, and yes. The ATF – for the first time ever –  willingly released that information under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, even though it should have been denied. The information is derived from the ATF’s National Tracing Center’s (NTC) Firearm Tracing System (FTS). That’s the firearm trace information the Tiahrt Amendment is protects from disclosure including by a FOIA request.

ATF released it anyway, in violation of federal law. It appears that the Biden administration views some laws as mere suggestions instead of laws that must be followed.

This isn’t the first time a New York City mayor clashed with the Tiahrt Amendment. Remember that name Michael Bloomberg? He’s the billionaire funder of Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). It’s worth noting Baltimore Mayor Scott and NYC Mayor Adams are MAIG co-chairs of the Bloomberg-funded Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Bloomberg is also the failed presidential candidate who said it’s perfectly fine for him to be protected by guns, but regular Americans, not so much. He’s also the former mayor of New York City and tried his own off-the-books end run around Congress, the ATF and DOJ to undermine the Tiahrt Amendment.

Rogue Mayors

History has already proven what happens when politicians abuse this protected trace data to score cheap political points. Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg unlawfully co-opted protected firearm trace data from the New York City Police to prepare a lawsuit against members of the firearm industry. Bloomberg ordered private investigators to conduct “sting” operations of out-of-state firearm retailers – without the knowledge of ATF or even his own police commissioner.

The result was disastrous. According to ATF, Bloomberg interfered with as many as 18 ongoing criminal investigations, jeopardizing the lives of law enforcement officers, informants, witnesses and others. The ATF was forced to pull agents out of the field for their own protection. The DOJ investigated the actions of the mayor’s private investigators and admonished the city against engaging in similar conduct because it could “interrupt or jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.”

Bloomberg’s own police commissioner, Ray Kelly, urged the DOJ to oppose the public disclosure of trace data sought by then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for use in civil litigation against members of the firearm industry precisely because it would “compromise critical law enforcement investigations and endanger the lives of police officers and members of the public.”

Tiahrt protections for firearm trace data isn’t what’s stopping New York City Mayor Adams from generating policy that would lock up criminals and staunch the crime plaguing city residents. The New York Police Department (NYPD) has all the information it needs on firearm tracing. That’s never been the issue. Mayor Adams once wore the police shield. He should know this.

The issue is that the Mayor’s office and the New York City Council treat crime with kid gloves. That’s a failing policy. The New York Post reported that the bail reforms that ushered in “no bail” policies, “shows that 66% of the people released under bail reform who had a recent prior arrest were re-arrested within two years of their release,” as reported by John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Data Collaborative for Justice. The Post added, “The DCJ study also showed that 67% of defendants who had a recent prior violent felony arrest in the past year who were released under bail reform were re-arrested within two years of their arraignment.”

Mayor Adams could be scapegoating federal law for his own failure to address crime as a way of misdirecting attention from his own concerns with the FBI. Late in 2023, the FBI abruptly seized Mayor Adams’ phones and iPad as part of a political corruption investigation into fundraising improprieties. That investigation continues with a search of the home of Winnie Greco, one of Mayor Adams’ closest advisors.  No charges have been formally introduced, as of yet, but it is a specter lingering over his anticipated re-election bid in 2025.

It appears that the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice is more interested in conducting a “name-and-shame” campaign of firearm retailers that have no connection to the crimes committed in New York City. The citizens of New York City would be better served if the city’s leaders and city’s prosecutors locked up criminals victimizing the innocent instead of turning those criminals back on the streets to commit more and increasingly violent crimes.


Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

4 Responses

  1. “New York City officials are untruthful when they claim law enforcement and policy decisions cannot be made without public disclosure of protected firearm trace data. The same is true of Baltimore’s identical claims.”

    You can bet your ass the real reason they want a ‘universal background check’ list of every gun owner in this country is so they can ‘accidentally’ publicize who they are and where they live, like what happened in Connecticut a few years back. They want us terrified of the prospect the violent thugs will rip us off…

  2. “New York City officials are untruthful when they claim law enforcement and policy decisions cannot be made without public disclosure of protected firearm trace data. The same is true of Baltimore’s identical claims.”

    You bet its “untruthful”, its a down right lie. They have always had access to this information for “law enforcement and policy decisions” purposes. It doesn’t need to be public, they have always had access to it ‘privately’ for “law enforcement and policy decisions” purposes.

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