The Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which cruised through the House this week, contains several provisions directed squarely at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (BATFE) rule-making authority. As we reported in the NoozSaurus article, Obama Administration Plans To Bypass Congress With ‘More Than A Dozen’ New Gun Control Regulations. Now the appropriations legislation to fund the Justice Department is loaded with GOP-backed language designed to keep the Obama administration from moving ahead with gun control regulations.
Under the proposed bill, the BATFE would be prohibited from banning certain forms of ammunition. which they have already tried, or blocking the importation of military-style shotguns. Another provision would block federal agents from creating what some characterize as a gun registry. Critics of the administration’s efforts to impose new federal firearm regulatory restrictions see the Congress’s power of purse as their best chance to block new rules.
“We need to stop the Obama administration from making end-run around Congress on gun control,” National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said.
The bill, approved in the House by a 242-183 vote, would prohibit the Justice Department from using any of the money to enforce certain gun regulations, such as the proposed ammunition ban. To make sure regulatory end-runs don’t happen again, Republicans included multiple provisions, authored by Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), in the bill barring future action. Hudson warned the BATFE to keep its “hands off our guns.”
Of course, Democrats argued viciously against the appropriations bill amendments added by Republicans. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said the move was irresponsible, since it could derail the bill in the Senate, imperiling all Justice Department programs.
“Once again, the Republicans are governing dangerously by offering a poison pill amendment that jeopardizes the safety of our law enforcement and first responders,” Israel said. “Congress should be passing common-sense gun safety laws to save lives and keep our men and women in uniform safe — not caving to the reckless demands of the gun lobby.”
Republicans also addressed a controversial BATFE requirement that gun owners disclose their race and ethnicity when purchasing a gun. The government would no longer be able to require such racial disclosures under a provision from Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.). The BATFE should be “colorblind” when it comes to guns, she said.
“We all want to see weapons kept out of the hands of criminals, but an individual’s race and ethnicity has nothing to do with their ability to safely own and operate a firearm,” Black said.
There are also provisions that would stop the BATFE from creating what critics say is a gun registry for rifles. The BATFE would be prohibited from continuing its current practice of collecting information about certain semi-automatic rifles that are sold near the southwest border. The agency says it uses this information to stop the flow of assault rifles to Mexican drug cartels.
The so-called “Fast and Furious” provision would block federal agents from giving guns to drug cartels as part of sting operations.
Public perception of guns and gun ownership is changing, the recent Pew Research Gun Control vs. Gun Rights poll shows a dramatic shift in favor of gun rights over control for the first time since the survey began. Legislation would seem to be following that public sentiment on both the federal and state level across the country.