Aides: Bill would make gun protections permanent

Alan Fram, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bipartisan Senate bill preventing a federal shutdown would make four long-standing gun protections permanent, including one preventing the Justice Department from requiring firearms dealers to conduct inventories to make sure weapons haven't been stolen, congressional aides from both parties said.

Another provision made permanent would prevent the government from changing the definition of antique guns, which can sometimes be easier to obtain than modern weapons. Two others would block the department from denying a license to firearms dealers who report no business activity, and require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to include language in firearms data stating that the information can't be used to make conclusions about gun crimes.

The Senate is debating the catchall spending bill even as separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee is moving in the opposite direction following December's massacre of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn. That panel has approved three separate measures aimed at curbing guns. It plans to approve a fourth on Thursday that would ban assault weapons.

Aides said that since at least 2004, the annual spending bill financing the Justice Department has carried six pro-gun provisions that Congress has enacted for a year at a time.

They say that for this year's bill, the Republican-led House wanted to make all six of them permanent. In a deal, four were made permanent in exchange for the House dropping a seventh provision — opposed by Democrats — barring the government from requiring gun dealers to report some sales of two or more rifles and shotguns said to be popular with Mexican drug cartels.

The spending bill the Senate is debating is designed to keep the government from shutting down later this month. It would finance federal agencies through September.

Besides providing money, such bills often carry language affecting government regulations and policy.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss lawmakers' deliberations.