BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, FIREARMS, AND EXPLOSIVES (BATFE) MODERNIZATION AND REFORM ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 25, 2006)
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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5092. I join with the gentleman from North Carolina, the subcommittee chairman, Mr. Coble, in developing this bill, which will focus on improving the due process and effectiveness in ATF enforcement of Federal gun laws and regulations.
Currently as many as 98 percent of violations cited by ATF against gun dealers result in nothing more than a letter of reprimand or meeting with ATF officials at their office, backed by some threats of revocation. There are complaints, on the one hand, that the enforcement system treats Federal firearms licensees unfairly by focusing too much on minor technical violations with threats of revocation. So, on the occasional, though rare, occasion, where the gun dealer's license is actually revoked for what is perceived to be a minor violation, it generates perceptions of unfairness and breeds disrespect of the regulatory process.
If a violation is challenged, the system perpetuates a further appearance of unfairness by using ATF employees, responsible to their supervisors, to decide the case. On the other hand, there are complaints that ATF is unable to effectively license the licensees, because the only available sanction is revocation, and licensees note they are unlikely to be revoked for anything more than a serious violation. Therefore, they can be casual with a lesser violation since they are unlikely to receive anything less than a warning.
H.R. 5092 addresses these problems with a system of intermediate sanctions, applied on a graduated basis. For violations the ATF designates as minor, the bill makes available to the ATF fines of up to $1,000, with cumulative fines up to $5,000 per inspection process. After two incidences of minor violations, suspensions up to 30 days are available.
For violations designated as serious, there can be fines up to $2,500 per violation, up to $15,000 per inspection; and in addition to such fines, suspensions up to 90 days or revocation are also available. The ATF will decide by regulation what constitutes a minor violation or a major violation. But anything which actually endangers the public will count as a major violation.
I would also note that, under the bill, any violation that results in or could have resulted in the transfer of a firearm to a prohibited person, or prevents the dealer from complying with gun tracing or anything like that, must be considered a major violation. Therefore, the suggestion that the bill allows for unaccounted-for guns to be treated as a minor violation is not true.
To ensure fairness in the process, the bill revamps the hearing process by requiring that hearings be conducted by Administrative Law Judges.
Mr. Speaker, in summary, for minor violations, virtually all of which are now treated with just a letter of reprimand or warning, the bill provides for substantial fines and treats repeat offenders with suspensions and/or additional fines. For major violations, the vast majority of which also result only in a letter of reprimand or a warning, the bill provides for even more substantial fines, longer suspensions or revocations. That will result in improved, fair and meaningful enforcement of our gun laws.
For that reason, I urge my colleagues to support the bill.
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