By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
s Congress resumes work on its legislative priorities, it is important that IACP members continue to ensure that elected officials understand the needs of the law enforcement community. Many IACP members attended Day on the Hill in March and met with Congress to call for an end to budget cuts for state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and to restore full funding to various programs and discussed other issues as well. Members who could not attend have also worked tirelessly to educate Congress on these issues.
To be successful, this effort must continue. It is imperative that law enforcement executives continue to contact their elected representatives and outline what the loss of federal assistance funding will mean to the law enforcement community and to encourage them to restore full funding in fiscal year (FY) 2009. At no time has it been more important for the voice of the law enforcement community to be heard than today.
To that end, the IACP has set up a Legislative Action Center (LAC) online at http://capwiz.com/theiacp/home/. Visitors can use the LAC to write their members of Congress; find a congressional directory; and get information on national, state, and local elections. The IACP encourages members to write their elected officials on the following issues important to the law enforcement community.
FY 2009 Funding
Both the House and Senate Budget Committees have begun work on their proposed budget for FY 2009 and are expected to release their proposals soon.
The Budget Committees’ proposed budget for FY 2009 represents the next step in the federal budget process. This nonbinding document serves as a statement of Congress’s priorities in the budget process. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin their efforts to craft the annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government.
The IACP urges all members to contact their elected officials and ask to restore critical funding to state, tribal, and local law enforcement programs. Specifically, the IACP is calling on Congress to fully fund the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program at $1.1 billion and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program at $1.1 billion.
A current bill before the Senate, S. 2123, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, is strongly opposed by the IACP. Briefly, S. 2123 would effectively federalize state and local government labor-management relations and deprive state and local governments of the necessary flexibility to manage their public safety operations in a manner that they choose. By mandating a “one-size-fits-all” approach to labor-management relations, S. 2123 ignores the fact that every jurisdiction has unique needs and therefore requires the freedom to manage its public safety workforce in the manner that it has determined to be the most effective.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on July 17 by a vote of 314–97 with 280 cosponsors. In the Senate, several attempts have been made to pass the bill, but to date, all have been unsuccessful. However, proponents of S. 2123 are planning to resurrect the bill this spring, and Congress must hear the IACP’s opposition to it.
Closing the Terrorist Gap
H.R. 2074/S. 1237, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, has been introduced in both chambers of Congress.
Under current law, individuals wishing to purchase a firearm must undergo a background check, having their names run through the National Instant Background Check System. Certain individuals—such as those convicted of a felony or those listed on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Violent Gang List—cannot legally purchase firearms. H.R. 2074/S. 1237 would properly classify those who are on the terrorist watch list as prohibited purchasers.
The legislation also gives the U.S. attorney general the discretion to deny a firearms license to any individual who is suspected to be involved in terrorist activity; it also provides guidelines for individuals wanting to challenge a decision by the attorney general.
Closing the Gun Show Loophole
S. 2577, the Gun Show Background Check Act of 2008, was introduced in the Senate on January 30.
Current federal law requires prospective purchasers of firearms sold by federal firearms licensees—such as gun and pawn shops—to undergo a background check. However, a loophole in the current law allows people to purchase guns from unlicensed dealers at gun shows without submitting to a background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) estimates that between 25 to 50 percent of firearm vendors at gun shows are unlicensed.
As a result of this loophole, many who are prohibited by federal law from owning guns are able to purchase firearms at gun shows.
S. 2577 would make the following changes to federal law:
- Gun shows would be defined as any event at which 50 or more firearms are offered or exhibited for sale. This definition includes not only those events where firearms are the main commodity sold but also other events where a significant number of guns are sold, such as flea markets or swap meets.
- Gun show promoters would be required to register with the ATF, maintain a list of vendors at all gun shows, and ensure that all vendors acknowledge receipt of information about their legal obligations.
- All firearms sales at gun shows would be required to go through a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). If a nonlicensed person is selling a weapon, they would use an FFL at the gun show to complete the transaction. The FFL would be responsible for conducting a Brady check on the purchaser and maintaining records of the transaction.
- FFLs would be required to submit firearm information, including the manufacturer/importer, model, and serial number of firearms transferred at gun shows, to the ATF’s National Tracing Center.
Again, the IACP encourages members to contact their elected representatives on these important issues. IACP legislative staff members are available to answer any questions members might have. Members with questions should contact staff via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. ■