I heard a discussion of assault weapons in civilian markets on Fresh Air yesterday and a few things slid into place. In the interview, Tom Diaz explains how the NRA has effectively blocked the publication of data around gun deaths through a series of riders put forth by former House Representative Todd Tiahrt. These laws apparently work by preventing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms from spending money to release their data about gun sales/use/etc.
I immediately thought of Code for America as a means for publishing this data without incurring cost to the ATF. Code for America assembles teams of coders to work on projects to help make government more transparent, work more effectively, and reach the people it serves (all of us) more easily. Providing public access to ATF data seems like a perfect task for the organization. I don’t know whether this is a real possibility, having only connected the dots based on my understanding of the radio interview. Even if this could work, the long-term effort of undoing the broader damage of the Tiahrt amendment and creating fact-based gun-control measures remains. Hopefully Code for America can help us get a start on educating ourselves about the spread and impact of guns with real data despite the existing obfuscatory legislation.