The National Defense Authorization Act re-authorization will hit the House Armed Services Committee for a vote this week. Currently in the Rules Committee, amendments are being considered, including one added by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). The amendment changes parts of the Act that govern the selling of surplus military arms (specifically rifles) to the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). While many have taken issue with the NDAA over “indefinite detention” some of those same naysayers are likely to applaud this measure if adopted into the final draft. On the other hand, there will also be those who will decry this move as unnecessary and risky, putting “military-grade” firearms on the street. So, what does this amendment actually do? Will surplus rocket launchers and belt-fed machine guns be flooding the streets? Not exactly.
The current NDAA provision allows for the selling of surplus military rifles to the non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation, Civilian Marksmanship Program. The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a national organization dedicated to training and educating U. S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and airguns through gun safety training, marksmanship training and competitions, especially our youth who all too often learn about firearms from less than reputable sources like movies and video games. Rep. Rogers’ amendment will expand the available firearms from just rifles to include .45-caliber semiautomatic M1911 handguns as well. The same caliber SEMI-automatic 1911 that you can buy at any gun store today, except that these were originally military issue sidearms. If the amendment passes with the NDAA re-authorization, it could potentially make 100,000 military surplus 1911s available for the CMP to purchase for their training and marksmanship program. They would also be able to resell those not needed for training to CMP members. Some have claimed that this would put “untraceable handguns” into circulation, however CMP follows all federal and state laws regarding the sale of firearms, including NICS background checks, stated licensing and permit requirements and FFL transfers were required by the state.
In a white paper prepared for Congress the U.S. Army and DOJ expressed concerns about the expansion of the marksmanship program and the inclusion of the 1911 handguns. Specifically, the Army is concerned about loss of accountability of weapons after transfer to CMP; expanding the scope of CMP’s mission to include handguns; and the potential negative impacts on public safety from the large amount of semi-automatic and concealable pistols that will be released for public purchase. However, without a national database and firearm registration, the same could be said for practically every gun sold in America today. The DOJ concerns were equally unconvincing, citing public safety, which is boiler plate form letter for anything gun related, and traceability (again, boilerplate form letter concerns). However, the DOJ also expressed concerns regarding Gun Control Act (1968) compliance that could potentially derail the amendment. CMP is not a Federal Firearms Licensee and is currently only authorized to acquire and sell, without GCA interstate controls, .22 caliber rimfire and .30 caliber surplus rifles, air rifles and accessories.
CMP History – In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress established the National Matches and the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice to support the idea that marksmanship skills developed through regular practice and competition would contribute to the nation’s defense. When the program expanded to make its competitions and military support available to civilians, it became commonly known as the “Civilian Marksmanship Program”. As the U.S. Army’s interest in marksmanship diminished after World War II, CMP increased its focus on fostering youth development through marksmanship. For over 90 years the Army and Department of Defense administered the program until Congress created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearm Safety, Inc. in 1996.