Rep. José Serrano, D-Bronx, said legislation he’s against would allow convicted felons to own guns.
That’s not allowed under federal law for most people with a felony. Serrano said a proposed amendment could change that.
"Now Republicans want to restore #gunrights to felons - something they lose after criminal conviction - CJS bills have prevented for 24 years," Serrano said in a tweet.
Serrano was referring to a bill that allocates funds to the U.S. Departments of Justice, Commerce and other agencies.
He explained his position when the amendment came up for a vote in the House.
"I rise in strong opposition to this very misguided amendment," Serrano said. "This amendment would allow felons and other dangerous individuals to try to regain the ability to own guns by sending an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives."
The amendment was agreed to by a voice vote so there’s no record of who voted which way. The bill it’s tied to has passed the House, but not the Senate.
Democrats and Republicans are typically divided when it comes to gun control. But would a Republican amendment allow felons to buy guns?
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, sponsored the amendment.
The amendment would give the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives funding to review applications from people who want to own a gun but legally can’t under federal law.
People who have served more than a year in prison are among that group. A felony conviction typically comes with a minimum prison sentence of one year. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge or received a dishonorable discharge from the military is also not allowed to own a gun.
The ATF has the power to restore gun rights to those people.
Federal statute says the bureau may do so if they believe the applicant "will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety and that the granting of the relief would not be contrary to the public interest."
But Congress has denied the bureau the funding for such a program.
Congress since 1993 has said no funds given to the agency "shall be available to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities." That’s the legal term for someone who is not allowed to own a gun.
The amendment would allow the agency to dip into federal funds to consider those applications.
What it means
The amendment does not give people with criminal convictions free access to firearms. Each person would be evaluated individually by the ATF.
There’s no guarantee that an applicant would be granted gun rights. If someone was convicted of a violent crime, for example, the agency may consider the person to be dangerous to public safety and deny the request.
Other criminal convictions may be seen as a lesser threat to public safety. Someone convicted of embezzlement in the past may be judged differently than someone with a violent felony conviction.
"Congressman Buck’s amendment allows the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to once again process petitions from citizens for the restoration of their Second Amendment rights," said Kyle Huwa, Buck’s spokesperson. "This petition process is already established under federal statute. The amendment makes no determination on the substance of the petitions."
Serrano said Republicans want to restore gun rights to felons.
An amendment proposed by a Republican congressman would allow people who have been stripped of their gun rights by the government to ask for them back. That’s not limited to people with a felony and it’s not guaranteed they will be approved.
Serrano’s statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.
Tweet from Rep. José Serrano Sept. 12, 2017
Video of Serrano’s remarks on House floor, C-SPAN, Sept. 12, 2017
Email conversation with Paola Amador, spokesperson for Rep. José Serrano
Amendment from Rep. Ken Buck, offered Sept. 12, 2017
Phone and email conversation with Kyle Huwa, spokesperson for Rep. Ken Buck
Federal law about who is not allowed to own a gun, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute
Categories of Prohibited People, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Federal law giving the Department of Justice power to restore gun rights, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute
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