Federal land gun rights bill in committee
by Dave Workman
Federal legislation that would protect gun and hunting rights on federal lands from anti-gun administrative regulations or ordersincluding presidential declarations authorized under the Antiquities Actis getting marginal bipartisan support, but still languishes in committee.
HR-5523, dubbed the Firearms Freedom on Federal Lands Act, was introduced by Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, and now has 23 co-sponsors, who are all Republicans with the exception of Democrat Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
According to the office of Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who recently signed on as a co-sponsor, this legislation is a “preemptive strike at any attempt to ban hunting on federal lands.”
Rehberg introduced the bill with Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Paul Broun (R-GA), and since then, 20 other congressmen have signed on, including Boren.
Currently, neither the USFS nor BLM restrict firearms, although both agencies have been clamping down on recreational shooters in certain regions. According to Simpson’s press release, some members of Congress are concerned that the Obama administration may try to change that and start pushing firearms regulations on these public lands.
Rehberg, Broun and Bishop authored the bill because of what they called “the Obama Administration’s disturbing pattern of bypassing congressional authority and public input when making decisions that affect our public lands, including the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) leaked plan to designate 13 million acres as new National Monuments.”
If passed, the bill will prevent the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior from issuing or enforcing any regulation or executive order, including presidential declarations authorized under the Antiquities Act, that prohibit an individual from possessing a firearm on lands managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
In a prepared statement, Rehberg said “There’s a large segment of powerful Washington, DC, elites that thinks the Second Amendment is obsolete and unnecessary. These progressives envision a world where only criminals and agents of the state are armed, and will use every tactic at their disposal to make this a reality. It’s up to Congress to protect these rights from overreaching bureaucrats, and that’s exactly what this legislation seeks to do.”
Rehberg is a member of the House Second Amendment Task Force and the Congressional Western Caucus. According to his office, the bill has the backing of the National Rifle Association.
Over the past few years, concerns have been raised over regulations adopted in different national forests, or ranger districts within those forests, to curtail recreational shooting. There have been closures in Colorado and Washington state, and the controversy led to political fireworks late in the Bush administration. Gun Week covered the story for almost two years, during which it was revealed that these closures were based on what amounted to an “urban legend” and the interpretation of a regulation that wrongly designated forest roads as “occupied areas” solely for the purpose of preventing recreational shooting in traditional roadside plinking areas.
Problems have developed in some of those locations with slob shooters and in some instances, unsafe shooting practices by some people have caused forest rangers to designate “No Shooting” zones.
However, there remain concerns that an anti-gun White House could resort to regulations that would not have to be reviewed by Congress to shut down shooting and even hunting on some public lands.
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