On Wednesday, July 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill following several votes on amendments of consequence to gun owners. In recent days, the debate over self-defense laws and the addition of Illinois as the 50th state to adopt a law offering citizens some process for exercising their Right-to-Carry have grabbed headlines. But while these issues soaked up public attention, NRA-ILA was hard at work in the halls of Congress defending existing protections against the federal abuse of gun owners and ensuring new gun controls were defeated.
Prominent among the amendments offered was a proposal by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would have deleted a nearly decade-old provision that protects against improper disclosure of confidential law enforcement records.
The law under attack protects law enforcement officers and the public from the misuse of firearms trace data, by limiting the release of such data to legitimate law enforcement purposes. In 2007, Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury excoriated Mayor Michael Bloomberg for attacking these protections, noting that “releasing sensitive information about pending cases can jeopardize the integrity of an investigation or even place the lives of undercover officers in danger.” Fortunately, these important protections were preserved by a vote of 30 to 18.
Another anti-gun amendment, offered by Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), would have allowed the federal government to use secret government lists to deny people their Second Amendment rights. Often portrayed by gun controllers as anti-terrorism legislation, in reality the measure would allow the federal government to circumvent the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process and bar people from owning guns based on secret evidence that they would have little or no recourse to dispute.
Such legislation could improperly affect hundreds of thousands of people. The ACLU has estimated that the number of people on government terrorist watch lists is over one million, and that the lists have ensnared those with no unsavory affiliations whatsoever. Thankfully, this amendment was defeated 29 to 10.
And finally, there is good news on a pro-gun amendment successfully offered by Rep. John R. Carter (R-Texas) to end the BATFE’s abuse of gun owners and dealers in the Southwest. Since 2010, dealers in the four states bordering Mexico have been required to report to BATFE the sale of two or more center-fire semi-automatic rifles, of greater than .22-caliber and capable of accepting a detachable magazine, to a single seller in a five-day period, in the same manner that has been required for handguns since passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The policy subjects buyers of multiple rifles to de facto federal registration and creates an additional paperwork burden for the dealer.
Further, as NRA has explained previously, this policy is an abuse of BATFE’s “demand letter” process, which allows the agency to query firearms dealer records in the course of a legitimate investigation. The process was never intended to be used in such an a broad way, and Congress’ refusal to include long guns in the Gun Control Act’s multiple sales reporting requirement makes clear its intent not to subject gun owners and dealers to this burden. So far, the courts have proved unhelpful in correcting this matter, which makes this week’s vote even more important.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the appropriations process, and the future of all these provisions remains uncertain. For now, however, the NRA thanks its allies on the Appropriations Committee for working to protect the rights of their constituents and of gun owners everywhere. While such actions may not always garner national headlines, committee members can rest assured that NRA will remind our members of who did--and did not--stand on the side of freedom.