Last week we asked you to urge your representative to oppose a massive land bill that was scheduled to come before the full House at any time.
The good news is that opposition to the bill grew so loud that the leadership pulled it from the calendar so they would have more time to muster enough votes to pass it. The bill, S. 22, is now scheduled to be voted on this week.
S.22 is a mammoth bill comprised of over 190 separate pieces of legislation and will come to the floor with a rule that will not allow pro-gun representatives to offer amendments.
There are serious Second Amendment concerns with this legislation. S. 22 will greatly expand the amount of land controlled by the National Park Service (NPS). Because the rights of lawful gun owners are restricted on NPS land, the bill will create even more "anti-Second Amendment" zones.
In contrast to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service, which allow State and local laws to govern firearms possession, NPS land was until recently subject to a complete gun ban.
In the waning days of his administration, President Bush partially reversed the ban, but that half-way measure still leaves a significant portion of the gun prohibition in place. Gun Owners of America has fought for several years to fully repeal the NPS regulations, but those efforts have been hampered by the anti-gun leadership of both the House and Senate.
GOA opposes many parts of the bill that are controversial and have not been debated on their individual merits.
Consider just a few provisions of the 1,294-page bill:
* Section 2002 codifies the National Landscape Conservation System, which groups together 26 million acres of federal land and places it under one umbrella agency. The NLCS was created during the Clinton administration and run administratively since that time. S. 22 will make the system permanent, raising concerns for hunters and sportsmen. Much of this land is consolidated from the BLM and the Forest Service, which have always allowed hunting and recreational shooting. It is unclear what rules will be promulgated by the new agency and if gun owners' rights will be protected at all.
* Section 5204 of the bill establishes the Washington-Rochambeau Route as a Historic Trail. This dual trail begins in Rhode Island and travels 650 miles to Yorktown, Virginia. The trail includes parts of major thoroughfares on the east coast such as Interstate 95 and US Route 1, meaning the gun ban could effect hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting gun owners each day.
* Section 5301 authorizes the federal government to buy private land adjacent to national parks and trails. Such land would be controlled by the NPS, and thus be subject to the agencies' anti-gun regulations.
* Section 7002 makes the birthplace of William Jefferson Clinton a National Historic Site. Well, perhaps it's fitting that the legacy of former President Clinton, who was responsible for so many anti-Second Amendment laws, will include yet another "gun free" zone.
In all, the bill designates over 2 million acres of wilderness, establishes three new national parks, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, and four new national trails.
If there are parts of the bill that could stand on their own, they should be brought up separately and dealt with in an open and fair process -- and not used as bargaining chips in exchange for compromises of your Second Amendment rights.
Some people on Capitol Hill contend that all of these bills already passed the House anyway. In fact, no they haven't. More than 70 of these bills now before the House were only passed by the Senate. The House of Representatives never even held hearings or open debate on these measures.
Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) has indicated that he wants to at least have the opportunity to offer an amendment to ensure that the Second Amendment rights of all Americans are protected.
However, right now it looks as though the anti-gun House leadership will refuse to allow any amendments to the bill, in order to ensure that it goes straight to President Obama's desk.
There is a possibility that an amendment to protect only hunting and recreational shooting on federal land would be allowed. Such an amendment by itself is not sufficient and is clearly designed as a "cover" vote for gun rights compromisers.
Please contact your representative and urge him or her to insist that an amendment be allowed to protect ALL of your Second Amendment rights -- not just hunting and recreational shooting.
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