Before you yawn and click – this is not your ordinary article about the omnibus bill. In fact, it should cause bells to go off in the heads of every liberty-minded Second Amendment lover. Here’s what I mean:
In the first days of May, a massive omnibus was agreed upon by Senate Democrats and Republicans to be voted on as the 2017 spending bill. After the Democrats and the leftist media touted this legislation as a resounding defeat of the Republicans, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney stepped up to the mic during the May 2 White House press briefing to chide Democrats for their unsportsmanlike conduct and to correct their numbers.
Amidst his impassioned explanations of several Republican wins, Director Mulvaney dropped an enticing nugget regarding Second Amendment protection. This particular statement is made at eight minutes thirty-two seconds into the video. “Every single second amendment protection that we wanted and the Democrats wanted to get rid of is still in the bill,” Mulvaney said.
That single sentence was the only mention of the Second Amendment in the entire briefing, and no supporting information followed. None of the press seemed to notice or care (surprise, surprise), as the only questions focused on the wall and the health care act. Even after turning to search engines across the web, the only other Second Amendment reference to be found was by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). His website claims that the bill “shores up Second Amendment rights,” but also fails to cite any examples.
Rather than read the entire 1665 page document, a keyword search using words related to firearms should bring up any references. The keywords found in the text were gun, rifle, weapon, and arm. After examining the context of the search results, five sections relevant to the Second Amendment presented themselves.
- Under Division B Title V General Provisions on page 219 and 220, SEC. 518 states (hyperlinks added):
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States receiving appropriated funds under this Act or any other Act shall obligate or expend in any way such funds to pay administrative expenses or the compensation of any officer or employee of the United States to deny any application submitted pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 2778(b)(1)(B) and qualified pursuant to 27 CFR section 478.112 or .113, for a permit to import United States origin “curios or relics” firearms, parts, or ammunition.
While this might not be the most profound protection of the Second Amendment in this bill, it does contain some of the strongest and most daunting wording. This section prohibits anyone working for the federal government from using appropriated funds to deny lawful applications to import U. S. manufactured firearms, parts or ammunition as collector items. Apparently, this section also says that the government cannot pay any agent or employee who does. By beginning the section with notwithstanding – which means in spite of or regardless to – any other provision of law, it nullifies any potentially interfering laws not included in the section. Finally, it doesn’t just forbid the government from using funds appropriated in this act; it restricts all appropriated funds from all acts.
To simplify the language a bit: Guns, parts, and ammunition can be imported for the sake of collecting them as curios or relics so long as they are of U.S. origin and the application is made following the preexisting legislation cited in the section. No government agent or employee will use any tax money granted by any act to deny such an application, and doing so will result in loss of pay.
- Under Division B Title V General Provisions Rescissions on pages 228 and 229, SEC. 531 states:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to deny, or fail to act on, an application for the importation of any model of shotgun if –
All other requirements of law with respect to the proposed importation are met; and
No application for the importation of such model of shotgun, in the same configuration, had been denied by the Attorney General prior to January 1, 2011, on the basis that the shotgun was not particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.
Though the language isn’t quite as strong here, this section seems to extend the restrictions on wrongfully denying lawful applications for firearm imports already granted in SEC. 518 to non-collector shotguns that can be used for shooting sports. It also apparently blocks payment of salary and expenses for any government agent or employee who – whether by direct action or inaction – blocks such lawful applications.
- On page 284 under Division C Title VIII General Provisions, SEC. 8019 states:
None of the funds available to the Department of Defense may be used to demilitarize or dispose of M-1 Carbines, M1 Garand rifles, M-14 rifles, .22 caliber rifles, .30 caliber rifles, or m-1911 pistols, or to demilitarize or destroy small arms ammunition or ammunition components that are not otherwise prohibited from commercial sale under Federal law, unless the small arms ammunition or ammunition components are certified by the Secretary of the Army or designee as unserviceable or unsafe for further use.
This section might not at first glance protect the Second Amendment, but it does prevent the Department of Defense (DOD) from destroying several military issue weapons that are both legal for and quite popular with many gun owners. While it doesn’t explicitly guarantee that the DOD will sell these firearms to the civilian population, it does seem to suggest it by bringing up the option of selling them commercially.
- On page 995 under the General Provisions of Division H Title II Department of Health and Human Services, SEC. 210 states:
None of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.
- On page 1049 under Division H Title V General Provisions, SEC. 503. (c) states:
The prohibitions in subsections (a) and (b) shall include any activity to advocate or promote any proposed, pending, or future Federal, State, or local tax increase, or any proposed, pending, or future requirement or restriction on any legal consumer product, including its sale or marketing, including but not limited to the advocacy or promotion of gun control.
(Subsections (a) prohibits appropriated funds from being used for publicity or propaganda that advocates for or against any legislation and subsection (b) prohibits the funds from paying the salary of anyone who does.)
These last two sections seem to have the most profound effect on the Second Amendment, which protects the individual right to keep and bear arms in defense against threats both foreign and domestic. While it’s unlikely that any pro-gun advocate would reject the right to collect relics or shoot for sport, these are not the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Forbidding the use of federal tax dollars to promote gun control is the actual win in this legislation.
These financial blocks probably aren’t what most gun advocates would have liked to see, but as Mr. Mulvaney said, single year appropriation bills should not serve as carriers for significant policy changes. This particular set of safeguards is only good through September 30, but its inclusion in this bill bodes well for similar language in the 2018 appropriations. Without knowing every single protection of the Second Amendment that the Republicans asked for, it’s hard to say whether or not they got them all. However, Mr. Mulvaney said there were some in the bill, and so there are.