‘Guns’ in 2016’s spending bill

After Congress passed the spending bill for 2016 on Monday, a review of the bill shows a slight increase in the budget of the agency tasked with enforcing federal gun laws and a host of provisions for other agencies that limits their involvement in the issue.

The appropriations bill sets annual fiscal budget and carves out funds that would allow agencies and programs within the federal government to operate.

According to the final draft of the bill, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will receive $1.24 billion for Fiscal Year 2016, a $39 million increase from 2015’s budget.

According to the agency’s budget proposal, the funds go towards employees who investigate a host of affairs including gun crimes, assist in the investigation of the aforementioned crimes, and other upgrading current programs.

Along with the budget, the Justice Department announced Monday that Thomas Brandon will continue to serve as the agency’s acting director, a position he’s held since the appointed director stepped down at the beginning of the year.

Monies reserved for the system to screen gun buyers are identical to 2015’s funding. To support the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, lawmakers set aside $73 million. Of that, $50 million will be used for grants to upgrade criminal and mental health records at the state level.

Interestingly, a provision for the Justice Department involving the NICS budget states that federal law enforcement cannot “facilitate the transfer of an operable firearm” to a person known or suspected of being part of a drug cartel without continuous monitoring or control of the gun.

For the State Justice Institute, which is tasked with awarding grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts, none of its $5.12 million budget can be used to deny an application for the importation of any model of shotgun (if requirements are met and it cannot be adapted for sporting purposes).

Also, there are provisions that limits SJI’s employees involvement with U.S. to Canada (and vise versa) firearms exports.

Under the Office of Justice Programs, $6.5 million is reserved for “competitive and evidence-based programs to reduce gun crime and gang violence.”

Provisions under the budgets for the the Officer of the Secretary, the general management arm of the Department of Commerce, and the Social Security Administration explicitly state that none of their funding can be used to promote or advocate gun control.