FAIRBANKS - Language in a U.S. Senate military funding bill that could force people to destroy their old military guns and equipment will be removed before it becomes law, Sen. Ted Stevens said late last week.
The Senate version of the Defense Department authorization act for the 2002 fiscal year contains language that gun owner groups say they have been fighting for years.
But Stevens, an Alaska Republican, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that an agreement has been reached to remove the language from the final bill.
Mike Hawker, a board member of the Alaska Gun Collectors Association in Anchorage, said the bill would let the government repossess and destroy everything from basic hunting rifles to restored military aircraft.
The House version doesn't contain the language that worries gun owners. The final bill is to be crafted by a House-Senate conference committee.
News-Miner calls to the office of Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, were not returned. Levin, a Michigan Democrat, submitted the final version of the bill, which passed the Senate on Oct. 2. The House passed its version Oct. 17.
The Senate bill states that all "significant military equipment" is unlawful to possess unless it has been "demilitarized."
The federal government's list of such equipment includes "launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs and mines."
But the first items defined as "significant" on the Department of State's U.S. Munitions List are military "nonautomatic, semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms."
That definition, said Hawker, covers some rifles that people use to hunt, including the Model 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifle in a .30-06 caliber, a standard World War I Army weapon.
Under the Senate bill, such weapons could be possessed legally only if they were "demilitarized." Hawker said the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 defines demilitarization as rendering a gun useless.
Hawker said the law wouldn't apply only to old firearms. Restored military aircraft and vehicles could be covered, he said.
The federal government does not sell surplus weapons or munitions into the general civilian market today, but it did so for many years following World War II. People could buy items from rifles to B-17 bombers.
The government still sells surplus M-1 Garand rifles to qualified civilians who participate in competitive shooting matches, Hawker said. The M-1 Garand was the standard World War II service rifle.
"That program has been going on since the Civil War and the whole point of it was to foster marksmanship among the civilian population of the U.S. using U.S. service rifles," Hawker said.