Gun control advocates and some congressional Democrats expressed frustration Thursday that the continuing resolution being debated on the Senate floor this week seeks to make several permanent policy changes related to firearms.
Four policy riders included in the bill would bar federal funds from being used in the current fiscal year — “or any fiscal year thereafter” — in ways that gun control advocates say could help crack down on the illegal use of firearms.
One provision would require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to emphasize in reports that its gun trace data “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.”
Another would keep in place a broad definition of antique guns and ammunition that may be imported into the United States. And yet another would ban any federal rule requiring gun dealers to conduct physical inventories to determine whether firearms have been lost or stolen.
The fourth would prohibit the ATF from refusing to renew a gun dealer’s license “due to a lack of business activity,” a provision that gun control groups contend would make it harder to identify potentially rogue dealers who are not involved in legitimate business transactions.
Although all of those policy directives have been included in annual appropriations bills since at least 2004, they have not been permanent changes, a Democratic Senate aide said.
The aide characterized the permanent provisions as a trade-off in negotiations that occurred late last year with House appropriators, who had sought to make additional gun-related riders permanent in the continuing resolution. Other riders — such as one banning the activities of the ATF from being transferred to another government entity, such as the more powerful FBI — are included in the Senate bill but not on a permanent basis.
According to the Senate aide, House appropriators also sought to include another provision that Democrats and the White House viewed as far more objectionable.
The aide said the Senate “fought off” a House effort to ban the ATF from requiring gun dealers in four southwestern states to notify it when they sold two or more of a certain kind of semiautomatic rifle to the same buyer within five days. The Obama administration has issued that rule covering gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, but many gun rights advocates view it as a veiled form of government gun registration.
Although the Senate’s gun language was agreed to late last year — before the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders at a Connecticut elementary school — gun-control advocates and some Democratic members of Congress said the deal now looks like poor timing. They said it undermines a concurrent effort in both chambers to crack down on gun violence.
Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who is sponsoring legislation (HR 427) that would require the kind of gun store inventory-checking that the Senate language seeks to ban in perpetuity, said he would oppose the Senate’s continuing resolution if the House votes on it. He said he is “going to start getting the word out” to his House colleagues about the Senate language in an effort to get them to oppose the bill.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.