07/13/11 02:00 PM ETHouse Republicans on Wednesday voted to strip funding for a new Obama administration policy that increases reporting requirements for some gun dealers who sell semi-automatic rifles. -
The rule from the Department of Justice (DOJ) requires dealers to report within five days multiple sales to the same person of semi-automatic rifles with removable magazines.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) sponsored the amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill that would nix funding for the rule.
"For more than a decade, efforts to track rifle purchases and create a national gun registry have failed to gain support in Congress, so the ATF is working to implement these regulations using rules written by unelected bureaucrats," Rehberg said. "I’m going to keep this government accountable to the people."
Democrats vehemently opposed Rehberg’s measure, which was supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said stripping the funding from the rule would be akin to “virtual wholesale slaughter.”
“The NRA is so afraid that the people who are really funding the NRA, the gun manufacturers, might lose some sales that we’re willing to sacrifice the lives of these people that are casualties of this gun war,” said Moran during the markup.
“And we’re promoting it. We’re enabling … that slaughter to continue,” Moran said.
The new reporting requirement focuses on gun dealers in Southwest states with close proximity to the Mexico border. It comes amid an ongoing push by the Obama administration to strengthen security in the border region.
The issue has received increased attention recently because of a congressional investigation into a controversial gun-tracking operation established by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Operation Fast and Furious authorized the sale of thousands of weapons in the border region to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels.
Rehberg’s amendment passed, with 25 members voting for it and 16 voting against. The measure garnered support from retiring Democratic Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), who partnered with him earlier this year to successfully amend H.R. 1 with nearly identical language blocking funds for the heightened reporting requirements from the fiscal year 2011 continuing appropriations bill.
That bill later died in the Senate, and Democrats stripped the reporting requirement provision from a subsequent measure.
The requirement focuses on dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. ATF estimated the rules would affect about 8,500 gun dealers in the area.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a leading gun-control group, said the ATF’s rifle rule would not put many, if any, new burdens on gun shops. The group’s acting president, Dennis Henigan, pointed to the nearly identical reporting requirement that has existed for more than 40 years requiring gun dealers to report multiple sales of handguns by the same person within a 5-day period.
“It is a modest burden for gun dealers to have them fill out this form, but it is an enormous help for law enforcement to be able to identify as quickly as possible purchasers who are walking away from gun shops with 5, 10, or 20 of these assault rifles,” said Henigan in an interview after the vote.
Citing the severity of the Mexican gun violence, the ATF in December asked the White House to fast-track the new reporting requirement, which the administration promptly declined.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said earlier this week that the requirement was aimed at curbing sales of high-powered guns to traffickers for drug cartels, not average citizens attempting to arm themselves for sport or protection.
“This new reporting measure … will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations,” he said in a statement.
Rehberg’s amendment was one of many offered during Wednesday’s markup that pushed a heated gun rights debate to the forefront of the committee’s agenda, as Republicans soundly defeated a Democratic attempt to limit gun purchases by suspected terrorists, and succeeded in inserting language to allow imports of more powerful types of shotguns.