Old Guns Could Find a New Home With Federal Law Enforcement Officers Under a New Bil
Supporters say the bill, which the House approved on Wednesday evening, will save the federal government millions of dollars.
Updated on May 18 at 9:55 a.m.
The House voted 232 -198 Wednesday evening to pass a bill that would allow federal law enforcement officers to buy retired weapons from their agencies.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officer Service Weapon Protection Act would task the General Services Administration with setting up this program for federal law enforcement officers who are in “good standing” with their agency. Thirteen Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill.
“Current federal regulations require all federal agencies, such as the U.S. Secret Service or the U.S. Customs and Border Protections to destroy weapons after they’ve been retired from federal use,” Rep. Russell Fry, R-S.C., said on the House floor on Wednesday ahead of the vote. “Taxpayers are paying for these weapons twice: when they go into circulation and when they are retired. Not only does this legislation have the potential to save millions of dollars in waste, but would offset the cost of purchasing new weapons to fund other agency expenses.”
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of the Police, Women in Federal Law Enforcement and National Treasury Employees Union (which represents Customs and Border Protection officers) endorsed this bill.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said before the vote that former Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., introduced the original version of this bill during the last sessions of Congress. That version had some provisions that Nadler said he was dismayed to see not included in this one.
Demings’ version had “two improvements that unfortunately have been removed from the current version of the bill.” The original stated that the law enforcement officers purchasing the weapons had to undergo a background check, whereas the version up for a vote on Wednesday says the officers have to be in “good standing”—a requirement that Nadler noted is not as thorough as a background check. He also said that Demings’ bill directed the funds the government gets from selling the weapons to be used to support evidence-based gun violence safety education and training programs, and it was bipartisan.
“While I wish the majority left Congresswoman Demings’ bill intact, I nonetheless support this weakened version of her work,” Nadler said. He added, however, that Republicans will lose his support if any “poison pill” amendments make it through that contribute to their “radical gun agenda.”
He ultimately wound up voting against it.
Three amendments to the bill were enacted. One would let the weapons be purchased at “salvage value” as opposed to “fair market value;” a second would allow retired federal law enforcement officers to be eligible to purchase the retired weapons; and the third would expand the type of weapons eligible for purchase.
Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., also took issue with the eligibility criteria for purchasing a retired weapon. The “good standing qualification in this bill is too subjective,” she said. She blasted Republicans for rejecting her amendment that would disqualify officers from buying the weapons if there is misconduct or unethical behavior in their personnel file, and said she opposed the bill.
In a statement of administration policy released on Wednesday afternoon, the White House expressed skepticism about the bill, but did not say explicitly that the president would veto it.
“The administration believes this legislation should require the federal agency to confirm that the purchaser is not a prohibited purchaser,” the White House stated. “Further, the legislation currently does not require certification to confirm that the retired firearms continue to be in safe, working condition. The administration does not believe that recirculating federally owned firearms that may cause accidental harm to the operator or others is in the interest of public safety.”