Gun Lobby Helps Block Data Collection by Crimefighters

Photograph by George Frey/Bloomberg

An attendee holds a rifle at the Rocky Mountain Gun Show in Sandy, Utah, on Jan. 7, 2012.

For two weeks, bullets pierced two dozen cars driven through Detroit’s suburbs as police puzzled over who was firing. Unlike most states, Michigan has a tool that helped lead to an arrest: a pistol registry.

Without that database of buyers and sellers, police said the investigation would have taken longer, more people might have been injured or someone might have been killed, before they arrested an unemployed geologist in connection with the crimes on Nov. 5, Bloomberg News reports.

The story of what worked in Michigan — one of six states that require registration of at least some types of firearms — is also the story of what isn’t happening elsewhere.

The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest pro-gun lobby, has persuaded federal and state lawmakers over the years to block information that might help prevent crimes, solve them or inform policy making. The Fairfax, Virginia-based group helped convince Congress to make it tougher to study illegal firearm trafficking, stymie scientific research on shooting deaths and create restrictions that force U.S. law enforcement to record gun sales on microfiche.

The debate over firearms-related data is intensifying as President Barack
Obama seeks new gun-control laws following the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The president’s plan calls for using firearms information in new ways, including a proposed law requiring background checks before gun sales and a directive to research causes and prevention of violence.

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