Sen. John R. Thune, R-S.D.
A leading supporter of gun rights in the Senate in an exclusive July 14 interview with Guns & Patriots that touched on many firearms issues made assurances that he will introduce a national concealed carry bill within weeks.
A new national concealed carry bill will be introduced within a matter of weeks, said Sen. John R. Thune, R-S.D., whose 2009 bill received 58 votes in the Senate, failing short of the 60-vote threshold required by Democratic parliamentary maneuvering.
A national concealed carry law would not only create a baseline right to carry a concealed firearm for all states, including Illinois, which is the only state without any procedure for concealed carry permits. The law would also create a framework for states to offer reciprocal recognition of concealed carry permits from other states.
Thune said he is now working with other senators, including Sen. David B. Vitter, R- La., who was a co-sponsor of the 2009 bill, and key Democrats, who have signaled their possible support.
The trick is that once the Democrats were confident his previous bill did not have 60 votes, they then allowed senators who needed a pro-gun vote for appearances voted for it, knowing it would not pass, he said.
One sticking point is how to handle the case of Vermont, he said. Vermont has no permit for concealed carry because it believes in the principle that it is not needed. This freedom is ideal, but what happens with someone from Vermont crosses into another state?
The senator said his bill will have a provision for Vermont, so that the national baseline does not hurt Vermonters, taking away their current freedoms.
The current top gun-topic on Capitol Hill is the program by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow guns to pass through normal checks at both purchase points and at the Mexican border. Called Project Gun Runner, the program resulted in the shipment of hundreds of firearms to Mexican criminals that have been linked to dozens of robberies, kidnappings and murders—including the murder of two federal agents.
“I found out about Gun Runner the same way everyone else did,” Thune said.
“As some of the reporting came out, and some people began to talk about it, and it percolated to the surface we found out a lot of things about this project that people didn’t know about,” he said.
The South Dakotan, who is married with two daughters, said the key thing now is to get to the bottom of the matter, which is what is going on with the combined investigation led by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles E. “Chuck” Grassley.
“I commend Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley for pursuing an investigation to figure out how high up at the Justice Department this went—and for listening to the ATF whistle-blowers and to try to and try to determent the scope of this failed project,” he said.
Despite hearings and weeks of questions, the senator said he is still trying to get the basic answers, such as the names of the officials involved.
“If in fact we do find out that there were people who know about this and that there was complicity, an effort to try and keep people from finding out it, there ought to be some heads that roll over there,” he said.
“This clearly was a botched mission that was designed well, you know, I am not really clear what it was designed to do,” he said. “It was not effective and as a consequence, and some people have been killed.”
Thune said he was heartened by the cooperation by Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson. “I hope that that continues, and I hope that if there are any people who were working in any degree to keep this from making it out into the public domain that will be exposed as well and that they will be held accountable.”
“You look at the consequences of this and what’s going on south of the border, and the risk it puts our own law enforcement agents,” he said. “It’s absolutely wrong and it needs to be exposed.”
Another area of frustration for Thune, is the administration’s haphazard rule-making , he said. One example is the effort by the government of South Korean to sell excess M-1 Garand rifles to Americans.
The administration approved the sale, and then withdrew permission without explanation, he said.
Thune said is very upset with the BATFE’s new rule requiring federally licensed gun sellers in states that border Mexico to report any multiple sales of rifles to the same individual within a five-business-day period.
“I have been active in this issue since January—and actively objecting that they proceed with this rule,” he said. In February, Thune and other senators signed a letter to the BATFE protesting that the rule itself was a violation of federal that that specifically allows for the reporting of handgun and revolvers purchases and not long rifles.
“This is a fundamental violation of the certified gun dealer’s rights,” he said.
Furthermore, in light of the Gun Runner debacle, there is some question if the BATFE has the ability to keep track of these weapons and individuals, even if they receive the report, he said.
“This goes above and beyond anything Congress is in favor of, and this final rule is really an overreach,” he said. “We hope to get some response back, but so far, they seem intent on moving forward.”
The senator, who is a married with two daughters, said he will continue to inveigh against the rule and its enforcement. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”
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