By Jeff Knox: Opinion
Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- The Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act has finally been introduced in the 115th Congress and has crossed its first hurdle.
The SHARE Act, as it is known, is the flagship bill from the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, and a version was introduced in both the 113th Congress (2013/2014) and the 114th Congress (2015/2016).
In both instances, the bill was passed by the House but was allowed to die in the Senate. In both of those congresses, Republicans held a majority in the House. Democrats held a majority in the Senate in the 113th Congress, and Republicans held the majorities in both houses during the 114th Congress.
That Senate majority dropped by a couple of seats in the current Senate, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats (and Democrat-aligned “Independents”) by only 4 seats, and Chuck Schumer has guaranteed to vehemently oppose anything that is favored by gun owners.
This year's iteration of the SHARE Act includes the Hearing Protection Act and the Lawful Purposes Act, both are strongly supported by The Firearms Coalition and other rights organizations.
As most people know, the Hearing Protection Act would loosen restrictions on silencers. Under this legislation, silencers, which are now treated the same as transferable machine guns, would be treated like regular Title 1 firearms. We much prefer the SHUSH Act (S.1505), which stands for Silencers Help Us Save Hearing.
This Act would actually deregulate silencers so that they would be treated, not like guns, but like the gun accessories they are. Passage of either version would be a significant improvement.
The Lawful Purpose Act has received much less attention from the media, but we consider it a more important piece of legislation. The key object of the act is to replace the phrase “sporting purpose” with the term “lawful purpose” in the Gun Control Act and limit the authority of bureaucrats to interfere with the importation of firearms and firearm parts. This has been a sore spot for Second Amendment purists for a long time. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with sport, and it's blatantly unconstitutional to have language in the statutes which bases a firearm's suitability for importation on its utility in some approved sporting activity.
Pittman Robertson Modernization
There are also several other important firearm law reforms in the SHARE Act, including some updating of the way Pittman Robertson funds – the money collected from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, some fishing equipment and other outdoor gear – can be utilized for land acquisition and range development, and an updating of the protections afforded to people transporting firearms and/or ammunition through areas with tight restrictions. Both of these reforms are long overdue. Another provision would lift the ban on firearms on federal lands managed by the Army corps of Engineers. There are also protections for ammunition and fishing gear that is made of lead, and provisions to open more federal land up to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.
Omnibus bills like the SHARE Act are a way to advance legislation that would have a hard time moving independently, whether due to lack of interest or opposition by a vocal minority. Typically they include provisions that are strongly supported by members of both parties as a way of undermining the opposition.
Though the HPA, (H.R.367) has received surprisingly strong support in Congress, it is also being loudly opposed by gun control groups and their congressional allies. About a third of House members have signed on as cosponsors, but the Republican “leadership” has kept it bottled up in committee. Folding the HPA language into the SHARE Act is a way to possibly circumvent that lack of will among the “leaders.” As in the past, the real test for the SHARE Act will come in the Senate, so we'd like to see it pushed through the House quickly so the Senate will have plenty of time to act on it.
The opposition has already ramped up their fear and falsehood campaigns, raising specters of silent killers mowing down innocents with their whispering death machines.
The challenge for rights supporters is to counter this nonsense with rational arguments and truth and to stiffen the resolve of Republicans and “pro-gun Democrats” to oppose the temptation to trade these important reforms away in an effort to salvage only the bare basics of the bill. The SHARE Act is already a compromise. We don't want it compromised further. If it is to die, we want it to die on the floor with hard record votes, not languishing in some committee or on some procedural maneuver with nothing but an anonymous voice-vote on the record.
Passage of the SHARE Act should be a relatively easy sell in this Congress, even with its pro-rights components, but with Chuck Schumer and Democrats being hyper-partisan, and some Republicans being hyper-contrarian, nothing is going to be easy.
Congress, especially your senators, need to hear from you. Tell them you want to see the SHARE Act, H.R.3668, brought to the floor for a clear, unambiguous vote, without being watered down. If we can't get it passed, at least we want to be able to use the votes as ammunition in the 2018 election cycle.
You can reach your senators and representative by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Call them today.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.