Monday, April 15, 2024

Laws from the government stop city leaders from figuring out where guns used in crimes originally came from. Baltimore is taking legal action to discover this information

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Last summer, in Baltimore, on a hot and sticky night in July, Krystal Gonzalez heard her husband scream like never before. He rarely raised his voice.

Gonzalez couldn’t understand exactly what her husband was shouting, except for their daughter’s name: “Aaliyah was shot!”

Earlier that day, Aaliyah had said her last “I love you” before heading to a block party with a friend. When Gonzalez saw her again, covered with a white sheet, it was at the scene of a mass shooting during the annual Brooklyn Day celebration.

As Gonzalez arrived, ready to run and find her daughter, she looked to her left and saw Aaliyah’s foot sticking out from under the sheet. She knew it was her.

Police officers warned Gonzalez not to see her like that, but she insisted, desperate to be with her daughter. It was the worst night of her life, a night that haunts her every day. Aaliyah, just 18 years old and a recent high school graduate, was one of two people killed in the mass shooting that injured 28 others on July 2 in the Brooklyn Homes neighborhood of south Baltimore.

Five people, including three juveniles, have been arrested in connection with the shooting, but no one has been charged in the deaths of Aaliyah Gonzalez and 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott doesn’t know where the guns came from, but he’s almost certain they were trafficked across state lines. Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) shows that most firearms recovered from crimes in Maryland don’t originate there. However, Mayor Scott and the city council are suing the ATF, arguing they need information on the guns’ history to stop the flow and hold unlawful dealers accountable.

Biden promised to improve access to firearms data, but he hasn’t used his authority to review the situation. The Tiahrt Amendment, which limits access to the ATF firearms trace database, is at the center of the debate. Mayor Scott and others argue that without this information, it’s challenging to address gun violence effectively.

The ATF processes tracing requests to track firearms linked to crimes, aiming to slow down or stop the flow of guns into the wrong hands. However, critics argue that the Tiahrt Amendment restricts the release of essential information needed for effective action.

The amendment, named after then-Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt, allows the ATF to release limited statistical data on firearm trafficking. Supporters claim that revealing more data could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations and put firearm retailers at risk.

Despite calls for change, the Tiahrt Amendment remains in place, hindering efforts to address the root causes of gun violence. Gun rights organizations support the amendment, while those advocating for gun control argue that access to comprehensive data is crucial for saving lives.

For Aaliyah’s mother, the impact of gun violence is deeply personal and irreversible. She has to imagine her daughter speaking to her, giving her a hug, as a way to cope with the permanent loss.

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