Gun Protections Added to Funding Bill in U.S. Senate

U.S. lawmakers included language that would permanently protect some gun rights in Senate legislation intended to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year.

Gun-rights advocates on the Senate Appropriations Committee would make permanent four firearms provisions in the funding bill as part of an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on the panel, according to a Senate aide who asked not to be identified in describing internal discussions.

Republicans on the panel are seeking to protect gun rights as the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee this week advances measures aimed at curbing gun violence following the Dec. 14 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a measure to ban assault weapons and place limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The agreement would make permanent the gun provisions, which have been in U.S. appropriations bills on a temporary basis since at least 2004, the aide said. The accord was an attempt by Democrats to stave off a House-sponsored measure related to semi-automatic rifles strongly opposed by President Barack Obama and gun-control advocates, the aide said.

The provisions would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from requiring gun dealers to conduct annual inventories to confirm lost or stolen guns, and make permanent an exception for “antique” guns that can be imported outside of normal regulations.

ATF Limitations

Another provision would prevent the ATF from refusing to renew a dealer’s license for lack of business. A final measure would require the agency to attach a disclaimer to data about guns to indicate that it “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about fire-arms-related crimes.”

Lawmakers put the provisions into stopgap funding legislation that’s now before the Senate. The bill would fund federal agency operations through Sept. 30 and avert a government shutdown after current funding expires March 27.

The agreement derailed a House amendment related to so-called long guns that would have prevented the ATF from requiring firearms dealers near the Mexican border to notify the agency when selling two or more semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the same buyer within five days. Such weapons are preferred by Mexican drug cartels, the aide said.

The assault-weapons ban approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today prohibits the sale, manufacture and transfer of more than 150 of the most commonly owned military-style semiautomatic weapons.

The bill is the fourth gun-related measure to clear the panel since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six school employees. Committee members on March 7 endorsed legislation imposing tougher penalties for gun trafficking, and on March 12 approved expanded U.S. background checks and funding to enhance school safety.

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