By Michael Clements
National gun rights organization, Gun Owners of America, raised alarm over the FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress, saying it is meant to do more than designate spending.
“Gun Owners of America strongly objects to the Senate amendment in the nature of a substitute to HR 2617 because it is infested with Second Amendment infringements,” the group wrote in a statement released on Dec. 21. The statement lists 12 provisions GOA claims will advance the Biden administration’s gun-control agenda and infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights through gun confiscation.
The group also takes to task members of Congress who voted for the plan.
“It is an outrage that any legislator sworn to uphold the Constitution and the Second Amendment would even consider passing a 4,155-page $1.7 trillion appropriations bill with so many gun-control provisions,” the statement reads. “Our Founding Fathers would be ashamed.”
The first item on GOA’s list is a 14 percent budget increase for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
According to the statement, ATF’s budget has been increased by 25 percent since the Trump administration. The GOA asserts that this money, along with a $14.4 million allocation to modernize the National Tracing Center (NTC), is part of a plan for the ATF to expand its database of guns and gun owners.
ATF is expected to clarify its position on pistol stabilizing braces which help aim large pistols based on AR-15 and AK frames. The ATF has waffled on whether the braces change the pistols into short-barreled rifles, which are illegal under the National Firearms Act. The GOA, along with many other gun rights groups and individuals, believe the ATF’s ultimate aim is to outlaw the weapons and use the NTC to find and confiscate them.
The statement says, “This (NTC) data sharing technology will upgrade ATF’s gun registry … and create door-to-door confiscation lists of Americans who lawfully purchased these newly banned firearms, such as AR-15 pistols.”
The statement highlights funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to “focus on suicide prevention policies,” such as promoting safe storage programs, enabling the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to maintain “gun storage maps.” Hence, VA officials know where veterans keep their guns, promoting “temporary out-of-home firearm storage” for veterans and pushing for “extreme risk”—commonly known as red-flag laws—that enable officials to confiscate guns.
According to the statement, these plans “violate the Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.”
The Omnibus bill calls for $770.8 million in Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants (JAG). JAG is a federal grant program to help states and municipalities with justice-related expenses such as indigent defense, courts, crime prevention, etc. While JAG grants were not directly gun related in the past, the GOA says the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act changed that.
GOA said the Act calls for JAG grants to finance red flag laws and extreme risk protection order programs. These would enable local law enforcement to confiscate guns from persons who have been deemed to be a danger even though they haven’t violated any laws. Proponents of the laws say they will promote public safety.
GOA disagrees. It contends that the laws will disarm vulnerable individuals while denying them due process rights. This includes veterans subject to these laws through the VA in collaboration with state and local law enforcement and health officials under extreme-risk programs.
“Veterans who fought for our Constitution and freedoms who later seek help at VA medical centers should be given the care they need, particularly mental health care and access to life-saving services, and not be deprived of their Second Amendment rights without due process by bureaucrats and a tyrannical state or local government,” the statement reads.
The GOA contends that red flag laws would discourage the mentally ill from seeking help when they need it. GOA points out that the mentally ill are vulnerable to being crime victims as well as possibly posing a danger to the community.
“It will discourage the mentally ill from getting the help they need because they risk being stripped of their rights,” the statement reads.
GOA Questions Earmarks
The bill also sets aside $50,000 per year for “humanitarian expenses incurred by or for any [ATF] employee thereof (or any member of the employee’s immediate family) that results from or is incident to serious illness, serious injury, or death occurring to the employee while on official duty or business.”
The GOA makes clear what it believes to be the motive for that item.
“With the Biden administration’s plan … to confiscate millions of lawfully purchased pistols … one can only wonder why Congress plans to offer new financial benefits to ATF agents and their families if they are seriously injured or killed on the job,” the statement reads.
The bill also earmarks almost $11 million for various ill-defined gun violence programs, the statement explains.
According to the GOA statement, the earmarks began last June as $830,000 for a “Ghost Gun and Gun Violence Prevention Initiative” in Vallejo, Calif. GOA labeled the initiative as a means of harassing law-abiding citizens engaged in a legal activity. The statement says the city changed the program to “The Vallejo Gun Violence Prevention Initiative,” added almost a dozen other programs, and jacked the price up.
According to the GOA, the budget item covers such programs as the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative, Fostering Greater Gun Safety in the New Haven Area, and Orchid Healing Circles for Victims of Gun Violence.
Programs Not Clearly Defined
“It is anyone’s guess as to exactly what ludicrous local gun controls are funded by these generically-named earmarks,” the statement reads.
The Omnibus bill also provides one million for the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to study gun violence and related issues as public health issues. In the past, the Dickey Amendment to the Omnibus prohibited this to prevent tax dollars from being spent on research that may be slanted against the Second Amendment.
The statement mentions the provision under “Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research as an example of the problem.
“Because firearms are designed and intended as lethal defensive tools, all firearm usage runs the ‘risk’ of injury or death; there is no way for the CDC to arrive at a conclusion that does not limit access to firearms,” the statement says.
The GOA statement also lists $4 million for domestic violence lethality reduction, which it claims will endanger women by discouraging them from exercising their Second Amendment right to defend themselves against domestic abusers; $50 million for ill-defined Community Violence Interventions Initiatives which have historically been used to limit Second Amendment rights; and funding to fight “Violent Anti-Government Ideology and “Domestic Radicalization” research.
GOA is especially concerned about the last item.
“The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics cannot be trusted with ‘$7.5 million to study the domestic radicalization phenomenon.’” the statement reads.
“Perhaps a better use of funds would be to educate lawmakers and police state bureaucrats about the text and history of the Second Amendment.”