Guns, Gitmo dominate Justice bill markup

 

In something of an annual ritual, Thursday’s full committee passage of the bill funding the Justice and Commerce departments featured heated debates over gun restrictions and how to handle prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the $52 billion CJS bill with only one of the contentious amendments added into the text. 

Rep. John Carter’s (R-Texas) gun amendment prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from requiring dealers in Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas to report on the sale of multiple rifles to the same person. It was adopted in a 29 to 18 vote. 

Carter argued that lawful gun owners should not have to sacrifice their privacy to the program and the border states should not be singled out. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats were outraged at the amendment, which they said would stop a program meant to counter gang violence and mass shootings.

“I know we are enthusiastic about guns — we love these guns — but we have a responsibility to the American public,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Americans will point to the amendment when someone mows down an innocent crowd, prompting an angry Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) to accuse her of playing partisan “games.”

Another gun amendment by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and David Price (D-N.Y.) aimed at preventing gun sales to individuals on the federal terrorist watch list was withdrawn after Carter offered to negotiate a compromise on it before the bill gets to the floor. 

Price noted that there are already several categories of people who cannot buy firearms.

“It is incredible that one of those categories is not suspected terrorists,” he said. 

Democrats unsuccessfully tried to remove a rider in the bill text that prevents the ATF from requiring dealers to report on their inventory. The Obama administration says the rider interferes with efforts to track down guns stolen from licensed dealers.

Debate swirled around a rider preventing implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, signed by the Obama administration, and a funding cut to the federal COPS program as well.

On Guantanamo Bay, the committee voted down an amendment by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) aimed at removing a restriction on the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. court system for trial. 

Full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) spoke forcefully against allowing detainees to be transferred.

“Why reward them with American Constitutional rights when there were trying to destroy this country?” he said. 

Moran argued that America was right to grant Nazi war criminals a trial and should do so again in the case of war on terror prisoners.