Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Other Gun Rights Measures Gaining Traction In Congress

Much attention has been placed on HR 822 – National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act – and rightfully so. It now has 171 co-sponsors and, hopefully, will have more after Congress gets back from its district “work” break. Besides this bill, there are a number of other gun rights measures starting to gain traction in Congress if measured by the number of co-sponsors.

HR 58, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, which was introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) now has 93 co-sponsors including a number of Blue Dog Democrats. Under current law, you are allowed to purchase a long gun at a gun shop outside the state of your residence if it is allowed by your state of residence and the state in which the transaction takes place. HR 58 would change this to include pistols and revolvers. Moreover, it would more broadly define state of residence for those in the military.

The next bill that is starting to pick up steam is Rep. Denny Rehrberg’s Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act of 2011 (HR 420). This bill would create a 90-day amnesty period for veterans or their families to register firearms subject to the National Firearms Act. The firearm must have been acquired outside of the United States while serving in the Armed Services and must have been acquired prior to October 31, 1968. The bill also would allow the firearm to be forfeited to the U.S. and then transferred to a museum. It forbids the destructions of any firearm forfeited to the U.S. HR 420 now has bi-partisan support from 103 co-sponsors. One side effect of this bill is that it could start the process to re-open the NFA Registry that was closed due to the Hughes Amendment in 1986. If it is opened for vet bring-backs, why not re-open for new weapons?

Also dealing with collectible firearms is HR 615, Collectible Firearms Protection Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). While written broadly to include other firearms, it is aimed at allowing the repatriation of the M-1 Garands and M-1 Carbines that the South Korean government is seeking to sell U.S. importers. This bill now has 71 co-sponsors.

A bill to do away with gun control in the District of Columbia, HR 645, has 99 co-sponsors. This bill was sponsored by Arkansas Democrat Mike Ross and is supported by a broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans. The bill would remove the DC District Council’s authority to restrict firearms, repeal the ban on semi-auto firearms, repeal the registration requirements, authorize ammunition sales, and repeal the ban on the sales of handgun ammunition.

The final bill that seems to be gaining some traction is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Reform Act of 2011. Introduced as HR 1093 in the House and S 835 in the Senate, this bill is a repeat of a similar bill introduced in the 111th Congress. The bill is a comprehensive approach to reforming the way that ATF deals with licensed firearms dealers among other things. It institutes a graduated system of penalties for minor record-keeping errors doing away with the all or nothing current approach. Moreover, it forbids the Attorney General from using the number of warnings issued or fines levied by an ATF agent as the basis for a bonus or promotion. This bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and it has 82 co-sponsors. In the Senate, the bill was introduced just a couple of weeks ago by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). Significantly, the first co-sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee which will be where hearings are held on this bill.

It is still relatively early in the 112th Congress but a number of pro-gun rights bills have gained traction. The difficulty will be in seeing that they get the hearings they need and then the support in both the House and Senate.

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