For years, the NRA and other gun rights groups have earned bipartisan support to amend spending bills with “riders” limiting how the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) keep track of firearms.
Some of the provisions in question have been adopted in the president’s budget year after year, after having originated as legislative riders to spending bills on Capitol Hill.
But gun-control advocates are focusing on the practice as part of their broader strategy of confronting the NRA. President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal is scheduled to be released early next month, and the new focus on budgeting minutiae in the already emotional debate over the nation’s gun laws could create a flash point between Obama and his allies on the left.
By raising the riders issue, liberals also hope to put the NRA on the defensive, forcing the group and its lobbyists to publicly defend the practice of attaching riders on appropriations bills, while also fighting off fresh legislation to limit gun violence introduced in the wake of the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
A new report, set for release Tuesday by the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) and obtained by The Washington Post, highlights the decades-long practice of using riders to hamper ATF’s ability to police the flow of illegal weapons.
“The NRA often has this line, ‘Why don’t we enforce the laws on the books?,’ but for the last few decades they’ve been making it harder and harder for federal agencies to do that,” said CAP senior fellow Arkadi Gerney, the report’s co-author.
The report highlights six gun-related riders set for approval by the House and Senate this week as part of a short-term spending resolution. Four of the riders under consideration would be made permanent, while two would be renewed for another year. Most of the riders have been included in spending resolutions since at least 2004 with little debate and broad bipartisan support.
The riders considered most controversial by gun-control advocates bar the Justice Department from conducting inventories of federally licensed firearms dealers and block ATF from using data on firearms sales to draw conclusions about gun-related crime. Other restrictions prohibit ATF from revoking the license of a firearms dealer because of a lack of business activity, while three others focus on the definition and importation of antique firearms favored by collectors.