Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives--Words of Futurity in Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Act
B-309704, Aug 28, 2007
In a letter dated June 20, 2007, you requested our opinion regarding whether a proviso appearing in the fiscal year 2006 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Salaries and Expenses appropriation regarding the Firearms Trace System constitutes permanent legislation. The proviso prohibits ATF from using appropriated funds to disclose contents of the Firearms Trace System database except to certain parties. To execute its mission of enforcing federal firearms laws, ATF conducts firearms traces for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. ATF maintains a Firearms Trace System database that contains information related to guns recovered in connection with a crime. In the fiscal year 2003 Department of Justice Appropriations Act, Congress directed that no funds appropriated in that act "or any other Act with respect to any fiscal year" were available "to take any action" under the Freedom of Information Act with respect to information in the Firearms Trace System database. Congress included similar language in fiscal years 2004 and 2005. In the 2006 Department of Justice Appropriations Act, as part of the language of ATF's Salaries and Expenses appropriation, Congress included a similar proviso stating that "no funds appropriated under this or any other Act with respect to any fiscal year may be used to disclose part or all of the contents of the Firearms Trace System database" to anyone other than a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution.
We conclude that this provision is permanent law.