It is no secret that annual appropriations bills are often used as a vehicle for moving through discrete legislative measures unrelated to funding the government. Because appropriations bills are often considered to be “must pass” pieces of legislation, packaging nonfunding policy provisions into these bills can be an effective way to ensure passage of measures that might not pass if submitted through the regular legislative process in the House and Senate.
The use of appropriations riders to enact policy changes, however, has reached new heights in the area of firearms. Beginning in the late 1970s and accelerating over the past decade, Congress, at the behest of the National Rifle Association, or NRA, and others in the gun lobby, began incrementally chipping away at the federal government’s ability to enforce the gun laws and protect the public from gun crime. The NRA freely admits its role in ensuring that firearms-related legislation is tacked onto budget bills, explaining that doing so is “the legislative version of catching a ride on the only train out of town.”
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