COLUMN: Not a second-class right: We must be vigilant to uphold the Second Amendment

March 13, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

After strong, bipartisan opposition from Congress and an outcry from the American public, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) backed down last week over proposed regulations that would restrict the use of popular ammunition for legal firearms.

While ATF’s sudden reversal is a welcome victory for Second Amendment rights, the backdoor tactics used to limit available ammunition show why Congress and the American public must remain vigilant.

Like many Central Washingtonians, I grew up responsibly exercising the right to bear arms, and I am a longstanding advocate to protect those rights. I enjoy my firearm collection, and my son Devon and I still go out shooting clay pigeons or paper targets.

Along with the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, the Second Amendment was of enough importance for the Founding Fathers to specifically include it in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment is not a second-class right, but that has not stopped opponents from attempting to use regulatory authority to restrict the rights of responsible gun owners.

ATF’s proposed rule change sought to ban civilian use of M855 5.56 x 45mm or “green tip” ammunition, which is most commonly used for the popular AR-15 rifle. By restricting access to the ammunition for the rifle, ATF would have restricted the use of the rifle itself.

In response to ATF’s attempted infringement on the Second Amendment, I was proud to join my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to challenge the agency’s proposal.

Americans also showed their support for their Second Amendment rights: the agency received 80,000 comments from the public on the proposal. ATF stated that “the vast majority of the comments received to date are critical of the framework.”

ATF may have backed down this time, but you can be sure that without strong opposition, this Administration will continue to try to add new regulations that further restrict legal gun ownership.

I was proud to cosponsor legislation that will prohibit ATF, or any other federal agency, from issuing or enforcing any new restriction or prohibition on the manufacture, importation, or sale of ammunition that is not already subject to the restriction or prohibition.

The law should also protect Second Amendment rights on federal lands, which is why I co-sponsored H.R. 578, The Recreation Lands Self-Defense Act. The bill would allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights on the more than 400 lakes and river projects, 90,000 campsites, and 4,000 miles of trails currently owned or managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Law-abiding citizens should not fear that the federal government is going to regulate their firearms—or ammunition for their firearms—out of existence through tweaking existing regulations. Congress must remain on the watch for any legislation or agency action that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights. As your Congressman, I will remain vigilant in protecting our rights.