House votes to ensure gun restoration rights
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The House late Tuesday night gave voice vote approval to a proposal allowing people to petition the federal government to restore their right to obtain firearms.

Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckDem seeks to curb tax breaks for employee buyouts over sexual misconduct Lawmakers take to Twitter to spread the Thanksgiving cheer My freedom is on the line to fight climate change, more will follow MORE (R-Colo.) offered an amendment to the annual spending bill for the Justice Department to ensure that people who are prohibited from buying guns can apply for a restoration status.

Current law allows people who cannot legally buy guns to petition their local district court. But legislative riders in place since 1992 prevent the Justice Department from processing the applications.

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Buck argued that people shouldn't necessarily be bound to past crimes or mistakes unrelated to gun laws for the rest of their lives.

"America is a land of second chances. One mistake should not define your future. A law-abiding, 45-year-old dad who made one mistake at 18 should have the choice of how best to protect his family or to take his kids hunting. He should have the chance to make a petition to restore his constitutional right to bear arms. This solution is long overdue," Buck said.

"This bill does not intend in any way, shape, or form to allow a violent criminal to possess a firearm," Buck stressed.

Heritage Action, an influential conservative group, issued a statement in support of Buck's amendment earlier in the day and pledged to include the vote on its legislative scorecard.

No one spoke in opposition to Buck's amendment during House floor debate and no lawmaker demanded a roll call vote.

Buck, incidentally, garnered headlines earlier this year for his display of an AR-15 assault rifle emblazoned with the American flag in his Capitol Hill office. 

The District of Columbia bans the possession of assault weapons. But Buck coordinated with federal authorities ahead of time before bringing the rifle, which was locked and unloaded, to Washington to ensure it didn't violate local gun laws.

A separate amendment offered by Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneRight revolts on budget deal House passes landmark bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy on Capitol Hill Democrat forces vote over GOP lawmaker's poster on House floor MORE (R-Ala.) would cut the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) budget by $250 million, or 20 percent. But it was rejected by voice vote.

Byrne argued that the threat of budget cuts would force the ATF to reevaluate how it functions. He cited botched operations like the Fast and Furious gun-tracking scheme that resulted in Mexican drug trafficking groups obtaining guns.

"I am all for safety and responsible gun ownership, and the ATF does have a role to play in that. But this amendment would simply require ATF to return to its core functions and responsibilities. It would cause ATF to look at itself in the mirror, find areas where they can cut back, and refocus on their true priorities," Byrne said.

But Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), the author of the underlying legislation, expressed concern that cutting ATF's budget by the margin proposed by Byrne would constrain its functions.

"I just don't want to see the ATF devastated," Culberson said.

The House is expected to vote on final passage of the Justice Department funding bill on Wednesday.