On April 5, the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security--Representatives Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.)--joined forces to introduce H.R. 5092, the “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Modernization and Reform Act of 2006.” This bipartisan bill is a critical first step toward finally reforming BATFE.
First and foremost, H.R. 5092 totally revises the system of administrative penalties for licensed dealers, manufacturers and importers of firearms. Today, for most violations, BATFE can only give an FFL holder a warning, or totally revoke the license. This bill would allow fines or license suspensions for less serious violations, while allowing license revocation for the kind of serious violations that would block an investigation or put guns in the hands of criminals.
H.R. 5092 also clarifies the standard for violations-allowing penalties for intentional, purposeful violations of the law, but not for simple paperwork mistakes. Congress thought it had fixed this problem in 1986 when it passed the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, but the government has ignored that law-and has even argued in court that the 1986 changes were “without practical significance.”
The bill also improves the process by which BATFE imposes these penalties, notably by allowing FFLs to appeal BATFE penalties to a neutral administrative law judge, rather than to an employee of BATFE itself.
H.R. 5092 would change BATFE’s enforcement operations in several ways, from requiring the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice to review of BATFE gun show enforcement operations, to demanding that the Bureau establish clear investigative guidelines. Finally, the bill would focus BATFE’s efforts on violations of firearms, explosives, arson, alcohol and tobacco laws, rather than non-jurisdictional areas.
Please be sure to contact your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121, and urge him or her to cosponsor and support H.R. 5092, the “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Modernization and Reform Act of 2006!”