There are some big things going on in Washington, and right now it looks like there is some serious momentum behind a new push for pro-gun legislation. Two bills have surfaced in the last couple days that would significantly improve the lives of gun owners in the United States. The first would remove silencers from the National Firearms Act (making them available without a tax stamp and 6 month wait), and the second would streamline the process for ammunition companies to find out if the ATF thinks their lead free hunting rounds are actually evil “armor piercing” bullets. Both of these would be fantastic common sense gun laws, but there are some serious challenges ahead.
First, the silencer bill. From the American Suppressor Association:
The American Suppressor Association (ASA) is pleased to announce the introduction of the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) by Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05). This historic piece of legislation will remove suppressors from the purview of the National Firearms Act (NFA), replacing the antiquated federal transfer process with an instantaneous NICS background check. The HPA also includes a provision to refund the $200 transfer tax to applicants who purchase a suppressor after October 22, 2015.
The key details here are that this bill would remove the registration and taxation requirements for silencers, but a background check would still be required to purchase them. This would bring the United States into line with most of the European nations (which Obama claims to want to emulate) which think of silencers as a safety device instead of an evil assassin’s tool. It’s a common sense step, but one that has an uphill battle since silencers still retain that Hollywood-imposed stigma.
The other legislation being introduced is a bill that would make it easier for ammunition manufacturers to find out if the ATF doesn’t like their projectiles.
U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) today introduced the Alternative Ammunition Manufacturing Act (H.R. 3802) to ensure ammunition manufactures have the certainty they need to produce alternative types of ammo. H.R. 3802, which is endorsed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), National Rifle Association (NRA), and Gun Owners of America (GOA), requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue a ruling within 60 days of receiving a waiver application, or else the application will be automatically granted.
Ever since the ATF started declaring more and more cartridges as “armor piercing” (seen by some as a backdoor attempt at gun control and increasing annoyance of gun owners) there’s been a concern that lead free hunting projectiles such as those required in the state of California will be similarly declared “armor piercing.” Keep in mind that the ATF’s definition of “armor piercing” doesn’t actually marry up with reality — they only care about the composition of the projectile, not whether it will penetrate a Level IIIa vest. Even standard “ball” lead ammunition will pierce “bullet proof” vests, but the ATF doesn’t care about actually improving safety. They just seem to want a mechanism to ban as much ammunition as possible.
The proposed legislation wouldn’t actually help much. All it does is require the ATF to tell a manufacturer if their projectile meets the arbitrary and capricious definition of “armor piercing” within a certain time period, and doesn’t really provide any assistance for those whose projectiles are deemed too terrible for public consumption. It’s an okay first step in a right direction, though.
The problem with both of these pieces of legislation is that their probability of passage is slim to none. President Obama has stated publicly that his biggest disappointment is that he was unable to introduce new gun control legislation in the United States. Given his statements on the topic it is highly unlikely that we will see him actually put pen to paper on either of these bills. What’s even more probable is that they will never see the light of the Oval Office in the first place. We’ve seen through the Democratic primary debates that the Democratic party sees the NRA as “the enemy,” and since guns are their new hot button issue I’m anticipating that every (D) within the legislature will jump all over these bills and make every effort to stop them.
That’s the real shame. These are actual “common sense” bills that everyone could get behind — if they understood the reality of the situation instead of relying solely on their biases and party rhetoric. But the probability of the Democrats getting over their hatred of the NRA is as likely as Hillary Clinton becoming a regular TTAG contributor.