Lawmakers are bracing for a showdown on Capitol Hill over gun provisions in a bill to fund the Justice Department (DOJ).
House Republicans are seeking to roll back a number of controversial gun regulations from the Obama administration, but not without a fight from Democrats.
Some of the provisions would block DOJ from banning military-style assault rifles and high-powered bullets for handguns, and collecting information about certain guns sales.
These provisions are expected to be offered as so-called appropriations riders, which means DOJ’s funding would be contingent on federal authorities following these rules.
It’s an opportunity for congressional Republicans to withhold funding from the agency unless the Obama administration backs down from certain gun regulations.
Or as the National Rifle Association sees it: "We need to stop the Obama administration from bypassing Congress on gun control,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
But Democrats are bitterly opposing the gun riders. They see it as a dirty trick by the GOP to beat back gun safety measures.
“Once again the Republicans are governing dangerously by planning to offer a poison pill amendment that jeopardizes the safety of our law enforcement and first responders,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said.
“Congress should be passing common-sense gun safety laws to save lives and keep our men and women in uniform safe – not caving to the reckless demands of the gun lobby," he added.
“These polices prevent thoughtful debate and consideration of our nation’s gun policies, which at present allow tens of thousands of people to die from gunshot wounds each year,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told The Hill in a statement.
Maloney joined more than 100 Democrats who sent a letter to House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) in April urging the GOP not to include these controversial gun riders in government funding bills.
“Gun violence reduction and prevention is an important and sensitive issue,” the Democrats wrote. "Given the renewed national focus on gun violence prevention, now is not the time to include controversial appropriations riders that negatively impact gun laws."
A number of gun safety groups also wrote to BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE on Tuesday to express similar concerns.
But their concerns have done little to change Republicans’ tune.
One of the gun riders would prevent the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from collecting information about the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles near the southwest border.
The DOJ uses this information to stop the flow of assault rifles to Mexican drug cartels. Democrats say it is merely a precaution that will not “hinder the ability of any law-abiding person to purchase as many rifles as they desire.”
But the NRA is concerned this policy “effectively creates a federal registry of certain firearms."
Another gun rider expected to be offered by Rep. Diane BlackDiane BlackGOP lawmakers push back against Club for Growth ads on border tax Border tax fight intensifies on Tax Day Dems on offense in gubernatorial races MORE (R-Tenn.) would prohibit ATF from collecting information about the race and ethnicity of gun owners.
Gun dealers are currently required to collect this information on firearms sales.
“Why does it make a difference what my race is, as long as I’m a law-abiding citizen?” Black asked in an interview with The Hill in April. “The government should be colorblind on all of our rights, whether it’s the right to religion, or guns, or freedom of speech."
Black previously offered the FIREARM Act as stand-alone legislation, but now plans to squeeze it into the DOJ’s funding bill as an appropriations rider.
Other gun riders could include provisions preventing the ATF from banning “military-style” weapons or high-powered bullets used in AR-15 assault rifles.
Republicans are also looking at what is known as the “Fast and Furious” provision, which would prohibit federal agents from giving guns to drug cartels.
These gun provisions are still being negotiated, but those that are approved as amendments will be included in the DOJ’s spending bill, which lawmakers could vote on as early as Wednesday.