By Larry Teague
-- An unexpected thing happened while gun owners were watching the new Democratic-controlled Congress.
They were blindsided by a different part of the federal government -- the executive branch.
Rules that would break the backs of ammunition manufacturers and dry up ammo supplies are being sought by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Published as required by law in the Federal Register, the proposed regulation changes deal with the manufacture, storage and transportation of small-arms ammo, primers and smokeless powder. OSHA wants to make the workplace safer for ammo retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.
Gun-industry groups say the rules would have an entirely different effect. They would eliminate the jobs of the very workers they're supposed to protect.
"As written, the proposed rule would force the closure of nearly all ammunition manufacturers and force the cost of small arms ammunition to skyrocket beyond what the market could bear -- essentially collapsing our industry," says the Newton, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
Buckmasters has long been a supporting member of the NSSF. Among other things, the non-profit group puts on the enormous Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show each year.
Complying with the proposal would easily exceed $100 million in costs, the NSSF estimates, and that's no stretch.
One particularly egregious part of the rule would require ammunition manufacturers to shut down and evacuate their factories whenever a thunderstorm approached.
Other language affects the ammo-buying public. No retail-store customer would be allowed within 50 feet of ammo or unless he or she was first searched for matches or a lighter.
The rule would also prohibit smoking within 50 feet of "facilities containing explosives."
John Frazer, deputy director of research and information for the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, says the proposal is an "unintended result" of an earlier petition to rewrite a confusing set of regulations that have existed since 1981. OSHA combined the rules for small-arms ammo and explosives as a result, despite the differences between the two.
Others see the proposal as a "back-door" attempt at gun control, and it's not hard to see why. Senators Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy and Hillary Rodman Clinton are members of the OSHA oversight committee.
The NSSF and the Sporting Arms Ammo Manufacturing Institute are urging small-arms ammo retailers and manufacturers to submit comments on the rule. Affected parties should point out that the rule "constitutes a 'significant regulatory action' as defined in Executive Order 12866 Section 3(f)(1) in that it will clearly 'adversely affect in a material way both the manufacturing and retail sectors of the ammunition industry, productivity, competition and jobs.'"
All written comments submitted to OSHA must include the following information in the reference line:
RE: Docket No. OSHA-2007-0032
Comment on Department of Labor/OSHA Proposed Rule
"Significant Regulatory Action" as Defined in Executive Order 12866
Individuals can file comments at http://www.regulations.gov. From pull-down menus at the search page, select "Occupational Safety and Health Administration," "Proposed Rules" and "Document Title." Then, type in the word "Explosives" in the area provided for keywords.
The National Rifle Association has provided the following sample letter for concerned citizens to use:
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing in strong opposition to OSHA's proposed rules on "explosives," which go far beyond regulating true explosives. These proposed rules would impose severe restrictions on the transportation and storage of small arms ammunition -- both complete cartridges and handloading components such as black and smokeless powder, primers, and percussion caps. These restrictions go far beyond existing transportation and fire protection regulations.
As a person who uses ammunition and components, I am very concerned that these regulations will have a serious effect on my ability to obtain these products. OSHA's proposed rules would impose restrictions that very few gun stores, sporting goods stores, or ammunition dealers could comply with. (Prohibiting firearms in stores that sell ammunition, for example, is absurd-but would be required under the proposed rule.)
The proposed transportation regulations would also affect shooters' ability to buy these components by mail or online, because shipping companies would also have great difficulty complying with the proposed rules.
There is absolutely no evidence of any new safety hazard from storage or transportation of small arms ammunition or components that would justify these new rules. I also understand that organizations with expertise in this field, such as the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Association, will be submitting detailed comments on this issue. I hope OSHA will listen to these organizations' comments as the agency develops a final rule on this issue.
The NRA adds that it's important to remember that this is only a proposal and that there's still time for gun owners to speak out before the agency issues its final rule.
OSHA recently extended the original 60-day comment period to Sept. 10 at the shooting industry's request.
Let your voice be heard.
UPDATE: Monday, July 16, 2007 -- Due to a flood of comments from gun owners to their elected representatives, OSHA announced that it is backing off of its proposal to update regulations for small-arms ammo in the workplace.
According to a press release issued today by the National Rifle Association, OSHA decided to withdraw the rule after dozens of U.S. congressmen expressed concern about the overreaching proposal.
Rep. Denny Rehbert (R-MT), working with the NRA, offered an amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill that would have prevented federal funds from being used to enforce the OSHA rule. He also gathered letters from 25 House members expressing concern about the rule, calling it an “undue burden” on ammunition companies.
For more information, visit the NRA's, SAAMI's and NSSF's websites.
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