THE BLOG

Response to Proposed Army Surplus Handgun Sales Is 'Blind Leading the Dumb'

05/18/2015 05:13 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016

There's a gun nut in Alabama named Mike Rogers who represents the 3rd Congressional District, an area which includes the town of Anniston. And every gun nut like me knows Anniston because it's the headquarters of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, aka the CMP. One of the easiest ways to get certified as a gun nut is to buy a rifle from the CMP. I bought two of the surplus M-1 Garands, one an original made at Springfield, the second a 1950s makeover turned out by Harrington & Richardson located right up the road in Spencer, MA.

Congressman Rogers, like most Republicans, has no trouble pushing government spending if the money is somehow connected to the military and the result is to create civilian jobs. So he's attached an amendment to the 2016 military spending bill which changes the law covering the CMP. If the amendment stays in the bill, from now on civilians will not only be able to purchase rifles, but all "firearms" that the Army considers to be surplus and thus available for anyone to buy. And it further turns out that the Army happens to be sitting on 100,000 old Colt 45 pistols that were first brought into service in 1911 and then replaced by the Beretta 9mm beginning in 1981.

There are probably more pistols built on the Colt 1911 frame than any other handgun ever made. Commercial models newly manufactured by various companies sell quite well; hundreds of thousands manufactured overseas have been imported back into the States. I have probably owned at least a dozen Colt 1911s since I bought my first commercial model in 1976, but the ones that were made for the military and are stamped "United States Property" are few and far between. As opposed to the M-1 Garand and Carbine, of which the Army has probably sold off several million guns, the pistol has never been made available to the civilian market, although on occasion one pops up here or there.

The problem that gun nut Rogers has encountered, however, is that the Army doesn't appear willing to go along with his scheme. Last week the military sent a memorandum to Congress citing concerns about public safety, accountability and possible violations of federal gun laws that needed "additional study" before the CMP's charter could be revised. In brief, the Army feels that these handguns, as opposed to CMP rifles, would be released to the public through unverified, online sales, therefore could not be traced by the ATF, and would therefore be a violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968. And don't think that the Army made this up on its own because the document cites as its source for this information none other than the DOJ.

This document is a quintessential example of the blind leading the dumb, or maybe the other way around. The CMP ships all its guns from and to federally-licensed dealers; purchasers must fill out a NICS background check form and agree that NICS must approve the transaction before the gun is released. Judging by my experience when I bought my Garands, the CMP creates a larger paper trail for each transaction than anything done in the local shop. Incidentally, although the Army cites DOJ as the source for this misinformation, the DOJ no doubt was given this nonsense by those regulatory geniuses at the ATF.

Given the stink that was made over the ATF's attempt to ban some .223 ammo, you would think that the gun lobby would be yelling and screaming about what is a bona fide violation of 2nd-Amendment rights. But while some of the pro-gun blogs are blazing away, so far the NRA has uttered nary a peep. And I'll bet they continue to keep their mouths shut, because for all their talk about being the first line of 'defense' for gun owners' rights, these stalwart defenders of the Constitution aren't about to say jack when it's the Army and not Obama who wants to keep us from owning guns.