Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BATFE Reform Bill Introduced!

There have been several attempts in the House of Representatives to reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). The Bureau has a long track-record of abuses and questionable interpretations of law that effectively represent legislating by Bureau. The Bureau’s operations are also in need of modernization to make it easier for law-abiding gun owners and FFL holders to comply with actual Federal regulations. The most recent attempt in the House, H.R, 4900 in the 110th Congress, had 244 cosponsors. A similar bill in the 109th Congress (H.R. 5092) passed by a 2-1 majority. Unfortunately the issue has never been taken up by the Senate, until now!

S. 941 has been introduced by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill, entitled “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act” will:

“...roll back unnecessary restrictions, correct errors, and codify longstanding congressional policies in the firearms arena. This bipartisan bill is a vital step to modernize and improve BATFE operations.”

Some of the other provisions include:

“Clarify the standard for “willful” violations—allowing penalties for intentional, purposeful violations of the law, but not for simple paperwork mistakes.”

This provision is extremely important as virtually all violations at this point are treated as willful, when in the majority of cases, they aren’t.

“Allow a grace period for people taking over an existing firearms business to correct problems in the business’s records—so if a person inherited a family gun store (for example), the new owner couldn’t be punished for the previous owner’s recordkeeping violations.”

Again, this is a very important provision which is closely tied to the above. Currently FFL holders can be punished for someone else’s mistake, and those mistakes are treated as “willful.”

“Require BATFE to establish clear investigative guidelines.”

This is a very key provision as the Bureau is notorious for “making it up as they go along.” That includes investigative methods and the “standards” used for determining if a firearm is a regulated “machine gun” or not.

“Permanently ban creation of a centralized electronic index of out of business dealers’ records—a threat to gun owners’ privacy that Congress has barred through appropriations riders for more than a decade.”

Again, this is a very important provision. Allowing the BATFE to create an electronic database is a big step toward creating a “virtual registration system.”

“Restore a policy that allowed importation of barrels, frames and receivers for non-importable firearms, when they can be used as repair or replacement parts.”

As a hobbyist, the “barrel ban” has made it difficult to maintain several of my legal semi-autos. I’ll be glad to see this one go the way of the do-do as it was effectively the BATFE passing a new “law” by “interpretation”.

The first step for this bill is the Senate Judiciary committee, chaired by co-sponsor Leahy. Given that the co-chair is a sponsor, one has to think that this bill has a good chance of getting to the Senate floor for a vote. Please write your Senators and urge them to support this vital piece of legislation. Also, give your Congressional Representative the heads up and ensure they’re ready to co-sponsor the House version of the bill!

Until next time!!!


crashburnrepeat said...

this is great, call legislators to get cosponsorship

Fingolfen said...

Already on it! We need to make sure this one passes this time!