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Back to Archives | Back to April 2004 Contents 

Legislative Alert

IACP Members Take Part in Day on the Hill Activities

By Gene Voegtlin, IACP Legislative Counsel, and Jennifer Boyter, IACP Legislative Analyst

Law enforcement executives from around the country recently met with their congressional delegations in Washington, D.C., as part of IACP Day on the Hill activities. This event provides an opportunity for participants to discuss IACP's legislative priorities as well as issues of local concern.

At this year's event, participants focused on critical issues related to federal funding for state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies. These visits to Washington came at a critical time for the law enforcement community. According to an IACP analysis of the proposed fiscal year 2005 budget, law enforcement assistance programs at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security face cuts of more $1.5 billion, which represents a 30 percent decrease from current levels.

Specifically, the proposed budget calls for significant reductions in programs such as the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant Program, the Community Oriented Policing Services Program, and the State Homeland Security Grant Program.

"All of these programs have played a vital role in dramatically increasing the capabilities and effectiveness of our nation's law enforcement agencies," said IACP President Joseph Polisar. "Today, when so much more is expected of our state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies, is not the time to be reducing the funding for these critical programs."

During the Day on the Hill activities, Chief Polisar released a comprehensive analysis of the proposed budget and its potential impact on the law enforcement community. This report is available at IACP.

Senate Defeats Amended Firearms Immunity Bill

On March 2, by a vote of 8-90, the Senate overwhelmingly defeated a bill (S. 1805) that would have limited the civil liability of the firearms industry after amendments to renew the ban on assault weapons and require more background checks at gun shows were adopted.

Prior the final vote, the Senate passed by a vote of 52-47 an amendment offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) to reauthorize for 10 years the existing assault weapons ban. Ten Republican Senators crossed party lines to vote for the amendment, while six Democrats voted against it.

Similarly, Senators approved by a vote of 53-46 an amendment offered by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) to close the so-called gun show loophole. The amendment would require background checks at shows where at least 75 guns are sold. Exemptions would be provided for dealers selling guns out of their homes, members-only gun swaps, and meets conducted by nonprofit hunting clubs.
The IACP supported both of these amendments.

In addition, the Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado) that would allow off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons nationwide. Under the amendment, off-duty and retired officers would be exempt from state and local laws banning concealed weapons. The IACP opposed this amendment.
The Senate also adopted an amendment offered by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) that would have required firearms manufacturers and dealers to provide child safety locks whenever a handgun is sold or transferred.

The Senate defeated an amendment offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) that would have expanded the definition of armor-piercing ammunition and require the attorney general to develop standards for testing body armor. Instead, it adopted a competing amendment offered by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) that would increase the penalties for criminals who use armor-piercing ammunition in the commission of a violent or drug-trafficking crime.

After the Senate voted to pass the assault weapon and gun show amendments, Senator Craig, the sponsor of the immunity legislation, declared the bill as amended a "bad bill. . . . I believe it is so dramatically wounded that I would urge my colleagues to vote against it."

President Bush has said that he supports reauthorization of the assault weapons ban, but that he did not want the immunity bill to be amended.

Senator Feinstein has indicated that she will seek to put the assault weapons amendment on another bill. Without congressional action, the current ban on assault weapons bill expire in September.

President Signs TEA-21 Extension; House Working on Reauthorization

President Bush signed legislation that extends authorization of the federal highway program for two months. Under the legislation, federal surface transportation programs will that were set to expire on February 29 will continue until April 30. This extension was required because Congress is still trying to complete work on a final highway bill.

Transportation Department Secretary Norman Mineta had warned that without the two-month extension the department would have had to furlough 5,000 workers who conduct safety inspections of trucks crossing U.S. borders, and would have had to stop the flow of federal money to hundreds of construction projects currently under way across the country.

The Senate approved a $318 billion bill on February 12, which the White House has threatened to veto, saying it should cost no more than the president's $256 billion proposal.

However, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) defended the bill, saying that the $256 billion requested by the president is inadequate to meet the country's needs.

House leaders have tentatively agreed on a six-year $279.5 billion reauthorization bill, although a draft of the bill has not yet been released. Though the cost of the bill is higher than the $256 billion limit placed on the bill by the president, the legislation is considerably less than the $375 billion bill introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska).


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 4, April 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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