The Senate Judiciary Committee announced it will hold a hearing next week to discuss a bipartisan bill intended to update federal gun measures and reform what critics say is an outdated firearm licensing process.
The bill, which was proposed more than a year ago, specifically addresses inefficiencies and problems within the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by eliminating certain restrictions on gun ownership and modernizing operations within the bureau. Committee Chairman and bill co-sponsor Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called for the hearing, and will announce the list of witnesses later this week.
Despite the general thrust of the bill in favor of gun owners and manufacturers, some conservative bloggers seized on the announcement, supposedly assuming that the hearing was some kind of plot to restrict gun rights before the end of Congress’ lame-duck session.
Under the headline, “It Begins… Democrats Schedule Senate Meeting to Regulate Gun Sales,” blogger Jim Hoft said that the Senate was meeting to “regulate gun sales”, adding, “now they’re coming for your guns.” Later on Wednesday, The Drudge Report posted a link to the committee’s announcement at the top of his website, while providing no explanation of what the hearing was about. (Update: Meanwhile, HotAir.com writer Ed Morrissey explained the issue and urged calm after receiving multiple emails from concerned readers.)
According to the bill’s summary, the measure:
-Permits an owner of a firearms business whose license is expired, surrendered, or revoked 60 days to liquidate inventory.
-Allows purchasers of existing firearms businesses the right to cure firearms violations attributable to such businesses.
-Allows the transfer, possession, and importation of machineguns for industry testing, training, and film production.
-Eliminates the requirement of written permission for the use of a handgun for lawful purposes by a minor (under age 18) where a parent or legal guardian is present at all times during such use.
-Prohibits the Attorney General from electronically retrieving inactive firearms licensee information by name or personal identification code.
-Directs the Attorney General to authorize the importation of all frames or receivers of rifles, or barrels for firearms other than handguns, if the importation is for repair or replacement purposes.
The bill has received strong support from the National Rifle Association.
“The bills would roll back unnecessary restrictions, correct errors, and codify longstanding congressional policies in the firearms arena. These bipartisan bills are a vital step to modernize and improve BATFE operations,” a 2009 NRA release read, urging members to call their congressman and vote for the bill. Another NRA release sent out when the bill was introduced in May 2009 said the bill “will make it easier for lawful gun owners and dealers to comply with federal law and regulations, while ensuring that those who break the law are punished accordingly.”
The Brady Campaign, an organization that argues for restrictions on gun ownership, has opposed the measure since it was announced last year. In a July 2009 release, the Brady Campaign argued that the measure “would severely undermine federal gun law enforcement and protect corrupt gun dealers” and “make it virtually impossible for ATF to revoke the licenses of gun dealers who violate federal law.”
Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt told The Daily Caller that while the bill is “well intentioned,” it does very little to actually address injustices between Americans who own firearms and regulators at the bureau.
“It will leave the problem on the table, all this effort will have been expended, and dealers and manufacturers are still going to get shafted,” he said, adding that there was probably little coincidence that the committee was taking up the bill so close to the midterm elections. “This is obviously politically motivated. When Pat Leahy supports anything that’s supposed to be on our side, you’d better keep your hand close to your revolver.”
The Judiciary Committee will hold the hearing on September 14 on Capitol Hill.