On Friday, November 18, 2011, HR 2112, the “Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS) and Transportation/Housing/Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bills”, also known as the “Mini-Bus”, which includes the annual appropriations bill that controls the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was passed, which includes some new limitations on the ATF’s power, as well as, limiting any new ATF determinations on the importability of shotguns. I previously blogged about the Importability Study during the 2011 Shot Show and then again after the publication of the study. While the provision limiting the ATF from conducting Federal Firearms Relief Determinations still exists (see HR 2112-58, or page 58 of the Bill), there were numerous other protections that have been added.
One of these protections, and which has been a concern to many, is the ATF’s recent Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns. This new bill states, “SEC. 541. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to deny, or fail to act on, an application for the importation of any model of shotgun if — (1) all other requirements of law with respect to the pro- posed importation are met; and (2) no application for the importation of such model of shotgun, in the same configuration, had been denied by the Attorney General prior to January 1, 2011, on the basis that the shotgun was not particularly suitable for or readily adapt- able to sporting purposes.” See page 88-89 of the Bill. This provision seeks to prevent any new limitations on the importability of shotguns, such as the Saiga 12 or Benelli M4, for which no determination had been made prior to January 1, 2011, with regards to whether it has a sporting purpose. For all of us Tromix lovers, this is a huge relief.
The Bill also provides for numerous new protections of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs). Specifically, one provision prevents the funding of any “consolidating or centralizing, within the Department of Justice, the records, or any portion thereof, of acquisition and disposition of firearms maintained by Federal firearms licensees.” See page 58 of the Bill. It also includes a provision preventing the appropriated funds to be utilized to “promulgate or implement any rule requiring a physical inventory of any business licensed under section 923 of title 18, United States Code.” See page 59 of the Bill. Furthermore, “[N]o funds authorized or made available under this or any other Act may be used to deny any application for a license under section 923 of title 18, United States Code, or renewal of such a license due to a lack of business activity, provided that the applicant is otherwise eligible to receive such a license, and is eligible to report business income or to claim an income tax deduction for business expenses under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.”
It goes on to state, “Provided further, That no funds appropriated herein shall be used to pay administrative expenses or the compensation of any officer or employee of the United States to implement an amendment or amendments to 27 CFR 478.118 or to change the definition of ‘‘Curios or relics’’ in 27 CFR 478.11 or remove any item from ATF Publication 5300.11 as it existed on January 1, 1994.” Id.
In a twisted sense of humor, the Bill also now expressly states that no funds shall be used to provide working firearms to drug cartel members. “SEC. 219. None of the funds made available under this Act, other than for the national instant criminal background check system established under section 103 of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, may be used by a Federal law enforcement officer to facilitate the transfer of an operable firearm to an individual if the Federal law enforcement officer knows or suspects that the individual is an agent of a drug cartel…” See page 70 of the Bill. Who would have ever thought that a Federal Agency would need such guidance from the Congress? Of course, we only need to look to Fast and Furious, the precipitous for this provision, to understand why it was necessary. And, to make sure that the ATF doesn’t skirt the issue by providing the funds to another Federal Agency to conduct the same activities, the Bill states, “That no funds made available by this or any other Act may be used to transfer the functions, missions, or activities of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to other agencies or Departments.” See page 58 of the Bill.
Clearly, the Congress had dealt with many issues that FFLs and the public have been concerned with in recent years. While it remains disappointing that year after year the limitation on Federal Firearms Relief remains, hopefully if enough individuals voice their objection to their Congressional Representatives, we will be able to remove that language in the near future.