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Congress Considers "Demilitarization" Requirement

Friday, October 5, 2001

This week, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1438, the Department of Defense (DoD) annual authorization bill, which contains a provision that is of grave concern to hunters and sport shooters. Section 1062 of this bill provides the Secretary of Defense with the authority to require "demilitarization" of any "significant military equipment" that has ever been owned by the DoD. This would include all firearms (such as the venerable M1, M1 Carbine, and Model 1911, as well as all Civilian Marksmanship Program rifles, even "sporterized" surplus bolt-action Springfields!), firearm barrels, ammunition, and gun powder. "Demilitarization" is the term for rendering such items permanently inoperable, and Sec. 1062 allows for this action to be carried out either by the owner or a third party, with the owner paying the cost, or by the DoD. However, if the DoD determines it should perform the demilitarization, it can also determine that the cost of returning the demilled item is prohibitive, then simply keep the item, and reimburse the owner only for the fair market scrap value of the item.

Furthermore, this new authority would require private citizens to determine for themselves if an item they own is subject to demilitarization, and face criminal penalties for non-compliance. The DoD would be under no obligation to notify law-abiding citizens that items they have lawfully owned for years, and perhaps that their families have owned for generations, are suddenly subject to forced demilitarization. This becomes extremely significant when one considers that U.S. military surplus has been regularly—and legally—bought, sold, and traded for centuries. Countless Americans own items that could be subject to Sec. 1062. It is likely millions of law-abiding Americans would be affected, and could unknowingly become criminals overnight without having done anything or having ever been informed.

The DoD already has the authority and responsibility to demilitarize any item it sells as surplus, so there is absolutely no reason to seek new authority to confiscate and destroy lawfully sold and lawfully owned items that are now the property of private citizens. Be sure to contact your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121, and your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121, and urge them to strike Sec. 1062 from S. 1438, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2002." The 24 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the 60 members of the House Armed Services Committee especially need to hear from you. To find out if any of your lawmakers are on either committee, you can use NRAILA.org`s "Write Your Reps" tool.

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