House-Passed Amendment Would Restart “Guns for Felons” Program

For Release:  Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Washington, DC — Tuesday night, the House passed several gun lobby-supported amendments to the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill including one that would allow convicted felons to obtain firearms following a petition to the federal government. This “guns for felons” program has been prohibited by Congress since 1992.

Under the amendment offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), individuals prohibited from buying and possessing firearms could petition the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for so-called “relief from disability.” The deadly consequences of such a program were exposed in a Violence Policy Center (VPC) report released in 2000, Guns for Felons: How the NRA Works to Rearm Criminals.

“There will be grave consequences for public safety if a reinstated ‘guns for felons’ program becomes law,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “Before it was prohibited by Congress, this NRA-supported program allowed thousands of convicted felons to purchase guns, including violent criminals. Our research found that many of these felons were subsequently rearrested for crimes including attempted murder, child molestation, and first-degree sexual assault.”

The VPC report found that between 1982 and 1992, ATF processed more than 22,000 applications for prohibited individuals to obtain firearms, and granted “relief” in approximately one-third of these cases. The VPC found a substantial number of these individuals were violent criminals. Out of a sample of 100 cases obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, one-third of the felons granted “relief” had been convicted of either violent crimes or drug-related crimes. The program also cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year — ATF spent more than four million dollars administering the program in 1991, its last year of operation.

The report also found that among the convicted felons granted “relief” between 1985 and 1992, 69 were later re-arrested for additional crimes including: attempted murder; first degree sexual assault; abduction/kidnapping; child molestation; illegal possession of a machine gun; trafficking in cocaine, LSD, and PCP; and, illegal firearms possession or carrying.


The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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