Although by federal statute there is a mechanism by which an individual who has lost his federal firearms rights may request a review to have them restored, that mechanism has been effectively unavailable for years as a limitation in the annual appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive Devices (“ATF”) has prohibited the expenditure of funds to investigate and review such requests. That prohibition may expire at the end of the current fiscal year opening the door for individuals to have a second chance.
This week the House of Representatives approved H.R. 2578, addressing Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016. The June 3, 2015, roll call vote in the House may be examined here. The text of the appropriations bill may be found here. Title II of the bill, starting on page 23, address appropriations for the Department of Justice. The provisions specifically addressing ATF start on page 33 and contains the now-familiar language: “Provided, That none of the funds appropriated herein shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code.”
Before the House passed the bill, however, it agreed to several amendments, listed here, including Amendment 302 offered by Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado. The Buck Amendment struck the phrase “none of the” from the above-quoted text and replaced it with the word “such” so that the bill now affirmatively expresses congressional approval for ATF to use appropriated funds to investigate and act upon requests for relief from disability.
The appropriations bill will now make its way to the Senate. You may want to contact your Senators in order to ensure this important change will be enacted into law.
UPDATE: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 not only excluded this language from the final bill but also restored the annual prohibition on use of funds to process applications for restoration of rights. Here is a link to the law as enacted and the appropriations for ATF are addressed at pages 2029-60 and 2029-61.