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April 7, 2011

Support the BATFE Reform Act

[Page: H2330]  GPO's PDF 

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Altmire) for 5 minutes.

Mr. ALTMIRE. Madam Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues to support a legislative effort to modernize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. I have joined with Congressman Steve King to introduce the BATFE Reform Act, which will safeguard American citizens' Second Amendment rights by bringing commonsense reform to the BATFE so that it can do a better job of punishing lawbreakers and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, without placing undue restrictions on local businesses in this difficult economy.

Our proposed legislation would make sure that federally licensed firearms dealers are not subject to poorly formulated and unnecessary regulations by updating the rules and potential penalties governing individuals and businesses that hold a Federal firearms license so they are clear and fair.

Our goal is to create a fair system under which firearms dealers with minor paperwork errors are no longer threatened with the loss of their livelihoods. Defining a willful violation is an important step in clarifying the way Federal firearms license holders are punished by the BATFE. Currently, the Bureau is limited in most cases to either giving a warning or totally revoking a license, no matter how minor or severe the violation. That's the current law. But I believe that these small business owners and law-abiding citizens should not be so harshly punished for small or even insignificant bookkeeping errors.

Our legislation would create a new system of penalties for Federal firearms license holders who commit minor violations, and prevent the Bureau from revoking Federal firearms licenses for minor technical violations such as improperly using abbreviations or filing records in the wrong order. Revocation of a license could still be an option for the BATFE to punish willful violation of the law, but it would not be the only option.

The BATFE Reform Act would also make commonsense reforms to help small businesses that sell firearms. For example, it would provide a Federal firearms license holder with the time to liquidate their inventory if they are going out of business. It would also allow a grace period for people taking over an existing firearms business in which they can correct preexisting record-keeping violations from the previous owner and make necessary updates to the license application procedures.

Our bill would permanently ban the creation of a centralized electronic index of dealers' records to protect gun owners' privacy and ensure that law-abiding gun owners will not unknowingly end up in a Federal gun registration database. Congress has included this language in its annual appropriations bills banning the creation of an index for more than a decade. This time we want to give it the weight of law so we can give gun owners certainty and make this policy part of the existing law.

The NRA has endorsed this legislation, and I would ask my fellow Representatives to show their support for the Second Amendment and small businesses nationwide by cosponsoring the BATFE Reform Act.

(House of Representatives - April 6, 2011)

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