Washington Report – Legislative Session Ends With Positives

The legislative year is wrapping up in Washington.   At this writing, the House and Senate are preparing to vote on a government funding package that will tie up loose ends and settle a handful of policy issues by handing out small but roughly equivalent rewards to both parties. In assembling the compromise, new House Speaker Paul Ryan has met expectations as a calm, cool and collected leader with an eye for resolving conflict and reaching consensus.

At the same time, Ryan has made clear his distaste for these types of last-minute negotiations. Next year will begin the real test of whether he can return the House to his goal of “regular order.” This coinage describes a more or less normal legislative process, with bills working their way through committees to the floor on a schedule to meet deadlines and requirements, versus the panicky last-minute deal-making at leadership levels that has characterized funding negotiations in recent years.

firstforhuntersammunitionYour Washington team is pleased to note that the final flurry of legislative activity has brought one substantial victory for hunters, as well as positive developments on other fronts that position SCI well for next year.   For a brief period, it looked as though we might even get a shot at stopping the federal ivory ban in the year-end deal-making, but that provision was forcefully rejected by anti-hunting Democrats in the early going.

The substantial victory that was achieved is one that SCI and its allies have pursued for years, and it was finally enacted into law on November 25. This provision clarifies the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to prohibit the EPA from banning lead ammunition. Anti-hunting groups have pursued a legal battle to force EPA to ban ammunition with lead components, and the battle has raged back and forth in courtrooms for years.

Now, this backdoor effort to eliminate traditional ammunition has been slammed shut. Certain forms of non-lead ammunition do exist, but it is made in much smaller quantities and is vastly more expensive – more than 300% more costly in many cases. One survey found that 36% of hunters would be forced to abandon hunting if faced with such an enormous cost increase.

This achievement is all the more important when viewed in the light of the federal government’s refusal to allow development of new non-lead projectiles. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has been sitting on dozens of applications from manufacturers who are trying to meet demand in states and localities where lead ammunition has been banned for hunting. But BATFE steadfastly refuses to rule on these applications, claiming that the current federal law banning armor-piercing ammunition ties their hands. So if lead ammunition is banned, and the government refuses to approve the manufacturing of new non-lead projectiles, you can see the squeeze play on hunters.   Such an outcome has now been averted permanently with the passage of this new federal law, and anti-hunting groups are smarting at their loss.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Bi-Partisan Sportsmans Act 2015 in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

In another important development, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a “markup” of the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015. Chaired by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee voted on a bipartisan basis to pass the bill to the Senate floor for debate. This long-sought compendium of important legislation has never before reached this milestone, and it marks critical progress in the effort to push this bill through the Senate once and for all. The quirks of Senate procedure require a similar vote of approval from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is working to schedule its markup of the bill early next year.

Of course, not all was sweetness and light in the final weeks of Congress. In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the usual suspects began churning up the gun control waters again. Obama repeatedly delivered his false claim that such attacks don’t occur in other countries, one time while actually standing in Paris barely two weeks after the mass shootings took place there.

In the House, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) was the ringleader of especially pointless histrionics, filing multiple “motions to adjourn” with the goal of simply gumming up the schedule. Of course, California’s restrictive gun laws already encompass the entire Obama/Bloomberg federal gun control agenda and then some, so they dragged out the “terrorist watch list loophole” scheme, trying to criminalize the purchase of a firearm by anyone whose name ends up on the secret government list that is riddled with errors. Of course, the perpetrators in the California attack weren’t on any such list anyway, but the facts are wholly irrelevant to the gun control cabal.

Their push went nowhere, and in fact, the final bills passed by Congress contain two other provisions that patriotic Second Amendment supporters can celebrate. The first requires the Pentagon to establish rules that allow base commanders to authorize the carrying of firearms by service members on base. As it stands, members of our armed forces are generally prohibited from carrying firearms while on base, but repeated attacks against our service members finally opened the eyes of military bureaucrats and paved the way to end that silly prohibition.

And finally, the government will be forced to stop wasting roughly $200,000 per year on warehousing surplus vintage 1911 pistols. Approximately 100,000 of these historic guns have been in mothballs for years, and now they will be transferred to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for eventual sale through gun dealers. Collectors, take note!

All in all, it’s some positive odds and ends for the end of a session where very few got what they wanted. Rest assured your Washington team is already making plans to continue our progress on SCI’s legislative agenda in 2016.–Patrick O’Malley


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