Chairman Mike Thompson and Vice-Chair Elizabeth Esty Lead Call to End Gun Riders in Appropriations Bills

Apr 4, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Vice-Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, led the call against legislative language known as “riders,” in appropriations bills that would block efforts to reduce and prevent gun violence. 106 of their colleagues joined Thompson and Esty in sending a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to oppose the inclusion of gun-related riders in appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2015.

“The only people these riders benefit are criminals,” said Thompson. “They prevent the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health from conducting research on the causes of gun violence. They restrict law enforcement’s ability to track and combat the spread of illegal guns. And they harm efforts to reduce and prevent gun violence. The American people deserve an open debate on these backdoor legislative tactics that do nothing but make our communities less safe."

“It’s unacceptable for members of Congress to slip into must-pass bills controversial provisions that block efforts to reduce gun violence," said Esty. "The fact that gun-riders have prohibited federally-funded public health research on the causes and impact of gun violence and have limited efforts to track illegal guns underscores how harmful these under-the-table provisions can be. The American people deserve an open, public debate on issues that so deeply affect the health and safety of our families."

In previous years, members of Congress included gun-related riders without any public debate.

The riders include provisions known as the Rehberg restrictions that prohibit research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on gun violence prevention, the Tiahrt Amendments that hinder the ability of law enforcement to track and combat the spread of illegal guns, and the Dickey restrictions that have led Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to effectively halt all research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.

In their policy principles released in February, 2013, the U.S. House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force recommended that Congress repeal these riders and restore funding for public safety and law enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence. The task force also urged Congress to fund law enforcement's efforts to reduce gun violence, while supporting federal research into the causes of gun violence.

In policy principle number nine found here, the task force recommended that Congress remove the Dickey, Rehberg, and Tiahrt restrictions.

A full copy of the letter is below.


March 25, 2014

The Honorable John Boehner                                                      The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House                                                                   Democratic Leader
U.S. House of Representatives                                                    U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515                                                             Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi:

As the House Committee on Appropriations develops each of the twelve fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bills, we urge that you ensure the committee’s legislation not include harmful legislative language, or “riders,” that impact the enforcement of gun laws, the operations of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL), or research into the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it.  Gun violence reduction and prevention is an important and sensitive issue.  Given the renewed national focus on gun violence prevention, now is not the time to include controversial appropriations riders that negatively impact gun laws.

Instead, such changes to gun policy must be seriously and properly considered by Congress through the regular order. This must be done in an open and transparent process where a full range of options can be frankly discussed and debated by the proper committees of authorizing jurisdiction and the entire House of Representatives.  Over the past several years, various appropriations riders related to gun policy have had unintended consequences that could have been prevented had these issues been properly and more thoroughly debated in Congress. 

For example, the Tiahrt and Rehberg amendments, among others, have prevented law enforcement from requiring FFLs to keep an inventory of their firearms, prevented law enforcement and academic institutions from using gun trace data to better understand the pattern of crime gun transfers, and chilled unbiased scientific research into the causes of gun violence and the means of preventing it.        

As the FY 2015 appropriations process begins through the respective Appropriations subcommittees, we urge you to support the development of legislation that is free of harmful gun-related riders.  Thank you for your consideration of this matter.