With violent crime rising, particularly during the pandemic, and with more and more victims of gun violence, the new four-state cooperation pact on the sharing of gun data seems like one of those “What took you so long?” moments.
In fact, you wonder why every state in the country doesn’t sign one big agreement.
Last week, the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a joint memorandum regarding the reciprocal sharing of crime gun data.
The nine-page agreement notes that gun violence continues to plague the four states and that “a significant number” of guns in the Northeast are sold or acquired in other states and transported from one state to the other, where they are used in crimes.
The memorandum notes that each state has its own processes and organizations that collect gun data and share it with the federal government and other states.
But it goes further to specify that each state agrees to transmit its gun data, with specific exemptions for sensitive weapons traces, to each other’s law enforcement entities on a regular basis via a secure transmission method.
How often they transmit the data over the terms of the 5-year pact will depend on the respective criminal intelligence needs of each state.
Gun data collected prior to the agreement will also be transmitted under the agreement.
The memorandum notes that the information may only be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes related to the investigation of criminal activity.
That, we assume, is designed to protect individual privacy and quell concerns of Second Amendment advocates that the data is being collected and shared to harass gun owners and to deter private gun ownership.
If someone gains unauthorized access to the information or if information is somehow modified or deleted, states are required to notify the other states and may withhold future sharing of data.
As for transparency, the states agree to follow state and federal disclosure laws, but also to notify the party that provided the data an opportunity to oppose disclosure. That sounds like a preemptive strike against transparency that will be left to the courts to ultimately decide.
The goal here is legitimate and in line with public safety. State lines are little deterrent for gun crimes.
The more that states cooperate on sharing such data, the better chance they have of identifying gun traffickers and getting illegal weapons off the streets before they can be used in violent crimes.
Other states should look to this agreement as a model and seek to join this cooperation compact until it spreads across the country.
Information is power.
And in the case of guns, it’s information that may save lives.