Beware of bears wear­ing Kevlar vests!

Colum­nist Dana Mil­bank com­ments on the pro­posed loos­en­ing of some firearm re­stric­tions.

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist

The days are grow­ing colder, and soon mil­lions of Amer­i­can hunters will pur­sue a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion. They will load their au­to­matic weapons with ar­mor-pierc­ing bul­lets, strap on si­lencers, head off to the pic­nic grounds on nearby pub­lic lakes — and start shoot­ing.

If you do not im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize this pas­time as part of Amer­ica’s her­itage, then you are sadly out of step with the cur­rent Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in Congress. A House panel has taken up the “Sports­men’s Her­itage and Recre­ational En­hance­ment Act of 2017,” which prom­ises “to pro­tect and en­hance op­por­tu­ni­ties for recre­ational hunt­ing, fish­ing and shoot­ing.”

Among these recre­ational en­hance­ments:

• Al­low­ing peo­ple to bring as­sault guns and other weapons through ju­ris­dic­tions where they are banned.

• Rolling back decades-old reg­u­la­tions on us­ing si­lencers.

• Pro­tect­ing the use of ar­mor-pierc­ing bul­lets.

• Eas­ing im­por­ta­tion of for­eign-made as­sault ri­fles.

In a state­ment last week, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s di­rec­tor ap­plauded the bill, which, he said, “will pro­tect Amer­ica’s hunters and recre­ational shoot­ers and help pre­serve our out­door her­itage.”

The bill has not been em­braced by the Con­gres­sional Sports­men’s Cau­cus, and it is likely to draw a lot of op­po­si­tion from Democrats. Clearly, both groups are dom­i­nated by elites who do not un­der­stand the joy of pheas­ant hunt­ing with tung­sten-tipped bul­lets. Al­low me to ex­plain.

Con­sider Ti­tle XV of the sports­men’s bill, also known as the “Hear­ing Pro­tec­tion Act,” which makes it eas­ier for gun own­ers to buy si­lencers for their weapons. The un­in­formed might sus­pect that si­lencers are used by peo­ple who want to fire weapons with­out be­ing caught by cops or ob­served by wit­nesses. But more and more hunters are find­ing that con­ven­tional earplugs and muffs are not ad­e­quate for to­day’s weapons — for ex­am­ple, quail hunt­ing with an M777 how­itzer or grouse hunt­ing with an FIM-92 Stinger mis­sile launcher.

Sports­men are fur­ther pro­tected by a “De­struc­tion of Records” pro­vi­sion re­quir­ing the gov­ern­ment to delete si­lencer sale and trans­fer in­for­ma­tion. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, law-abid­ing hunters would not want si­lencer pur­chases to be logged. Such a pa­per trail would be an ob­vi­ous tip-off to game an­i­mals, par­tic­u­larly those with ac­cess to the Na­tional Firearms Reg­is­tra­tion and Trans­fer Record.

Ti­tle XVI of the bill, the “Law­ful Pur­pose and Self-De­fense Act,” de­nies the gov­ern­ment author­ity to re­clas­sify bul­lets as “ar­mor pierc­ing.” It’s OK if the am­mu­ni­tion pierces body ar­mor, as long as the man­u­fac­turer claims the ammo is meant to be used for sport and not for killing peo­ple wear­ing body ar­mor. This pro­vi­sion is par­tic­u­larly timely be­cause a grow­ing per­cent­age of Western griz­zlies have been seen in re­cent years wear­ing Kevlar vests when they at­tack schools in Wy­oming.

I take per­sonal com­fort in Ti­tle XI of the sports­men’s bill, which says that if you can legally own a gun in states with any­thing-goes gun laws (such as Texas), you can trans­port that gun through places with re­stric­tive laws (such as Washington, D.C.). Peo­ple could be free to take their AR15s, their AK-47s or per­haps even their M134 ma­chine guns to the cap­i­tal. They wouldn’t be al­lowed to leave them, but it’s likely some would — a wel­come de­vel­op­ment, be­cause I have dis­cov­ered moles bur­row­ing in my lawn. A weapon that fires 100 rounds a minute would make quick work of them.

Ti­tle V, the “Farmer and Hunter Pro­tec­tion Act,” would en­hance hunters’ en­joy­ment (and farm­ers’ fi­nances) by al­low­ing them to lure mi­grat­ing birds to cer­tain fields where crops have not been har­vested — and shoot them. Those “sports­men” who find this un­sport­ing could in­stead make their way to one of the recre­ational ar­eas run by the Army Corps of Engi­neers, which re­ceive 370 mil­lion visi­tors a year — and would re­ceive armed visi­tors un­der Ti­tle III, the “Recre­ational Lands Self-De­fense Act.”

The need for this is trans­par­ent. Sup­pose you are with your fam­ily, drink­ing beer on a pon­toon boat on the lake, and an­other fam­ily’s boat bumps yours. Un­der cur­rent law, you have no re­course. But un­der this bill, you could set­tle things ac­cord­ing to your sports­men’s her­itage, by rais­ing your si­lencer-equipped as­sault gun and fir­ing ar­mor-pierc­ing bul­lets at mi­gra­tory birds.

Dana Mil­bank is syn­di­cated by The Washington Post Writ­ers Group.

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