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Minnesota Mayors "Take Aim" at Illegal Guns

June 13, 2007


Minneapolis, MN - Several Minnesota mayors have joined others nationwide in calling on Congress not to renew a federal provision they say makes it harder for local cops to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals. One of the mayors is R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis.

"Mayors and police chiefs around the country are united in the fact that local police should be able to find where illegal guns are coming from, when they're involved in a crime."

At issue is the Tiahrt Amendment, named for House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican. Since 2003, it has been a yearly addition to a U.S. Justice Department appropriations bill. It prevents investigators from using federal gun-trace data. Supporters of the provision say it protects privacy rights, but Rybak explains it also makes it more difficult for law officials to track down criminals. Rybak says data-sharing would help address a growing problem in urban and rural areas.

"It has to do with the 1,400 illegal guns that were seized off the streets of Minneapolis, and the thousands of other illegal guns that are swarming throughout our state. Police chiefs know that when we have illegal guns on the street, they are endangering our citizens and our police officers -- and that we have to do something to make it more effective to trace where these illegal guns are coming from."

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee takes up the Justice Department appropriations bill on Monday; Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum is a member.

Sue Fust with the group Citizens for a Safer Minnesota says while only a few gun dealers are responsible for the large number of illegal guns, they're having a huge public safety impact, by allowing weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

"In the past six years, the number of gun deaths and injuries per year in Minnesota has almost doubled. When you talk of illegal gun trafficking, it's closely associated with the drug problem. And, while our cities are flooded with guns that have slipped into the hands of teens and criminals, with the spread of drugs such as meth into rural areas, illegal gun trafficking is sure to become a big problem in those areas as well."

Other mayors to join Rybak in this effort include Colman of St. Paul, Bergson of Duluth, Lampe of Brooklyn Park, Van Eyll of Chaska, Schiffman of Waconia, Humphrey of Wayzata and Marty of Mounds. Learn more online at www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN