- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

A sweeping provision in the Senate's Defense Department authorization bill would force collectors who have bought surplus military items to "demilitarize" them something hobbyists fear means destroying or turning over vintage military vehicles and guns.
House members stripped that section out of the version of the bill they passed, and negotiators from the two chambers are now working to iron out the issue. No agreement has been announced, but several lobbyists from vehicle collectors associations and gun rights groups said House negotiators have promised the provision will be stricken.
Known to opponents simply as Section 1062, the provision of the Senate bill would make it illegal for anyone to possess "significant military equipment" formerly owned by the military unless it has been demilitarized which means made inoperable as a weapon according to regulations set out by the Defense Department.
The purpose of the provision, a Pentagon spokesman said, is to prevent a recurrence of past mistakes when a helicopter or tank has been sold without the gun placements removed.
But a broad coalition from the National Rifle Association to the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans to vintage military jeep owners and even military radio collectors says the provision is drawn so it encompasses just about anything the military has ever surplused.
"If Uncle George brought an M-1 rifle home from the war, it would include that," said Scott A. Duff, who has written a history of the M-1 Garand rifle, which was a staple for World War II infantry.
Even more ironic, he said, is that the federal government still sells that particular rifle to civilians through a marksmanship program, creating a curious situation: "The FedEx man could come to your door with an M-1 today, and the Defense Department could come to your door [to demilitarize it] tomorrow."
However, the section of the bill has irked more than gun enthusiasts.
Allan D. Cors, president of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles and owner of more than 100 tanks, armored vehicles and jeeps, wrote a memo calling the provision "a grotesque and frightening grant of authority to seize [or] destroy legally acquired and legally possessed private property," especially since it would specifically harm people like him whose goal is to preserve artifacts of military history.
Nobody knows how many planes, trucks, pistols, radios and rifles would be covered under the provision simply that it is a lot.
Several of the groups have been told that demilitarization wouldn't apply to them, and senators have said they do not intend it to apply to Civil War cannon and World War II aircraft. The provision also grants the secretary of defense discretion on what to demilitarize, and how to do it.
But hobbyists say they want to be sure someone doesn't misinterpret the provision in the future.
"We want to believe that, but our concern is the language is so broad that 10 years down the line some bureaucrat may say, 'Oh my goodness, we haven't been keeping up with this, here's all this ex-military aircraft we need to demilitarize,'" said Peter Moll, executive director of the Experimental Aircraft Association Warbirds of America, a group representing civilians who own military aircraft.
Yet there are some groups that say the issue has been blown out of proportion.
"We've been in contact with Senate staffers on this and it seems like some of the concern is typical knee-jerk overreaction of some of the gun extremists," said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"Congress is trying to do the right thing on this. They're trying to make sure someone doesn't have access to high-powered military weapons. They're not going to take away someone's World War II rifle," he said.
The fate of the provision like the rest of the bill rests with Democrats and Republicans who are now in conference.
Tara Andringa, spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the senator will not comment on the provision until an agreement has been reached.
"All that Senator Levin has said is that he's aware of concerns that have been raised and they're working to iron out differences in conference," she said.
Lisa Atkins, chief of staff to Rep. Bob Stump, Arizona Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he is opposed to Section 1062.
"The congressman is very opposed to it, and doesn't want to include it" in any piece of legislation that is eventually agreed to by both chambers, she said.


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