Washington, D.C. — As he drafts his first budget proposal since the Newtown shooting, a report released today by the Center for American Progress urges President Barack Obama to remove all of the unnecessary and dangerous gun riders from the fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill he will submit to Congress. Removing these riders, many of which originated at the behest of the National Rifle Association, has the potential to free the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal agencies to use their substantial knowledge and expertise to protect our communities from future gun-related tragedies.
Appropriations bills are intended to allocate funding to government agencies to ensure that they are capable of fulfilling their missions and performing essential functions. But the gun riders directed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, do exactly the opposite and instead impede the agency’s ability to function and interfere with law-enforcement efforts to curb gun-related crime by creating policy roadblocks in service to the gun lobby. There are more than a dozen appropriations riders passed every year, typically without any discussion or debate, which significantly limit the federal government’s ability to regulate the firearms industry and fight gun-related crime. These riders jeopardize public safety and undermine any new legislation that Congress may pass to reduce gun violence. Among other things, the riders:
- Limit ATF’s ability to manage its own data in a modern and efficient manner, and strip the agency of autonomy and its ability to make independent decisions
- Interfere with the disclosure and use of data crucial to law enforcement and gun-trafficking research
- Frustrate efforts to regulate and oversee firearms dealers
- Stifle public health research into gun-related injuries and fatalities
“While the NRA’s lobbyists claim to want to enforce the laws on the books, no organization has done more to inhibit the law-enforcement functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal agencies than the National Rifle Association,” said Arkadi Gerney, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “We urge President Obama to clean the slate and deliver to Congress a budget that removes unnecessary and dangerous riders and cancels the future effect of riders included in prior budgets.”
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, the National Rifle Association 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.”
Read the report: “Blindfolded, and with One Hand Tied Behind the Back: How the Gun Lobby Has Debilitated Federal Action on Firearms and What President Obama Can Do About It” by Winnie Stachelberg, Arkadi Gerney, and Chelsea Parsons
To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.741.6285.
CAP ACTION EVENT TODAY: Gov. Dannel Malloy and Rep. Mike Thompson will discuss federal and state initiatives to prevent gun violence today at the Center for American Progress. The event will start at 2:30 pm ET at the CAP office (1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor; Washignton D.C. 20005). Click here for full details and to RSVP.