WASHINGTON -- Gun-control advocates won a rare victory this past Friday when congressional negotiators removed a provision from the final budget deal that would have made it much harder for the government to regulate firearm sales along the Mexico border.
The amendment, offered by Reps. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), would have prevented federal funds from being used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to track bulk sales of long guns in southwestern states. Up until late moments in the negotiations, sources familiar with the discussions say, it remained in the text of the final continuing resolution.
But sometime before the final deal was announced on Friday night, lawmakers stripped the rider from the bill. The move came after concerned lawmakers and even Mexico's Ambassador to the United States lobbied congressional leadership and the White House to strip the language from the bill.
"ATF is already chronically underfunded and has been without a confirmed director since 2006 as a result of inaction by past sessions of Congress," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a co-chair of the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said in a statement. "We welcome this sign that leaders in Washington may be ready to step up and help law enforcement save lives."
Privately, gun-control advocates acknowledge that the simple removal of the Boren-Rehberg Amendment was a minor victory. To wildly cheer such a development could give off the impression of that longer-term objectives are hopelessly unreachable.
Yet, as one operative in the gun control community notes, "it's hard to recall the last time the NRA didn't get a priority," which the Boren-Rehberg Amendment was. And the amendment's defenders were notably silent after it was stripped from the final budget deal.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the gun-rights lobby did not put out a statement on the rider being stripped. Rehberg's office did not have a statement either. A call to Boren's office was not immediately returned.