Gun groups such as the National Rifle Association are watching the Water Resources Development Act in the Senate very closely Wednesday. Not because they are riveted by water projects, but because Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced two amendments to the bill that could expand gun rights dramatically and create a gun registry, not for the public, but for the federal government.
Coburn's first amendment would require federal agencies to disclose how much ammunition and how many weapons they are buying for agents. It would also require them to report when weapons went missing, were lost or were stolen.
Coburn, who has made a name for himself cracking down on government waste, worked last year to convince the government to turn over records of how much ammunition they were selling.
The Department of Homeland Security reported it had spent $123 million on 360 million rounds between 2010 and 2012, and planned to buy $37 million on ammunition in 2013.
"The American people should also know how many firearms agencies have at their disposal," Coburn said in a statement.
Coburn says his amendment does, however, take into consideration security risks to agencies such as the Department of Defense and the CIA.
Under his proposal, those agencies would be allowed to submit a detailed explanation of why they cannot comply.
Coburn's second amendment would allow gun owners to carry their weapons onto the 11.7 million acres of land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers if state laws permit it.
It's an effort that mirrors a successful one in 2010 that expanded gun rights on national park lands and delivered a substantial victory to gun rights advocates.
Under current law, even gun owners who have concealed carry permits in their states are not permitted to bring their gun along on Army Corps lands. Coburn's office estimates more than 370 million people visit the Army Corps lands, which include 6,500 miles of trails and 95,000 campsites. These lands are different from National Park Service lands. The National Park Service lands see approximately 280 million visitors.
However, the amendments complicate the water bill, which attracted a broad bipartisan coalition with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., leading the charge.
Monday, Boxer scolded Coburn on the floor for throwing a wrench into the process.
"We're working on a critical infrastructure bill," Boxer said on the floor. "And the first two Republican amendments are not about jobs, are not about business, are not about commerce [they] are about guns."