First Shot from the 111th Congress
By Jeff Knox
The 111th Congress got off to a predictable start on January 6 with the swearing in of the many new members and the introduction of a few pieces of legislation, including one of the most draconian gun control bills to be offered in years.
No sooner were the new members of Congress sworn in than Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), a former Black Panther leader, filed a bill, H.R. 45, which he calls the "Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009". The bill was introduced with no cosponsors and was automatically referred to the House Judiciary Committee where, under normal circumstances, it would remain and where it would die, but the new congressional paradigm is far from normal and anything could happen.
If passed, H.R. 45 would require that anyone wishing to purchase, own, or possess a "qualifying firearm" - that's any handgun, and any semi-auto long gun capable of accepting a detachable magazine - would have to be licensed by the federal government in a licensing program managed by the Attorney General. To get a license you would have to prove you're you, provide a passport-style photo, a thumbprint, and take a written exam which includes questions about firearms safety, safe storage, the risks of firearms ownership, knowledge about gun laws, and any other subject, as the Attorney General determines to be appropriate. You would also be required to open your mental health records to the Attorney General or his designee. Licenses would need to be renewed every 5 years.
All firearm transfers would be required to go through a licensed dealer and be subject to a full background check with the exception of occasional gifts or bequests between parents, children (18 or over), and grandparents, or loans of not more than 30 days between "persons who are personally known to one another." And all transfers would have to be recorded in a "Transfer Record" established and maintained by the Attorney General. In order to accomplish the institution of the Transfer Record" provisions the bill repeals the current law forbidding the establishment of a federal firearms registration system.
The bill also makes it a crime for a dealer to have any incomplete records or fail to sufficiently cooperate with any inspectors. It makes failure to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 72 hours a felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison. Failure to keep a firearm locked up in such a way as to keep it inaccessible to anyone under 18 becomes a federal felony too.
While the bill makes exceptions to the background check requirement for occasional transfers between parents, grandparents, and adult children, it does not appear to exempt these transfers from recording requirements so such transfers appear to still require the involvement of a licensed dealer and would probably have to go through the background check anyway because a dealer wouldn’t want to incur any potential liability for not running the check. It is also worth reiterating that even though you would be tested, investigated, and licensed, you would still be required to go through a background check every time you wished to acquire a "qualifying firearm." There is no exception made for Concealed Carry Permit holders.
The inescapable irony here is that the bill is named for a young man who was killed when he heroically shielded a girl from a crazed gang-banger trying to kill a rival on a city bus in Chicago. Of course Illinois already has a licensing law and Chicago has laws against possession of almost any firearm, but still a 16-year old gang-banger got a semi-auto pistol from a 15-year old gang-banger and told students waiting at the bus stop what he was going to do before the bus arrived. (None of the student so informed bothered to notify authorities before the shooting started.) As always happens when gun control schemes fail to accomplish their stated goals, the answer from the gun prohibitionists is to enact broader, harsher, more complicated gun control laws. If this terrible bill were to pass it would be only a short time until it was followed by a call for universal registration because, obviously, all of those guns that were in circulation before the transfer record requirement was enacted will not be in the system and such a glaring "loophole" will need to be closed before the law can work as intended.
The good news is that this bill does not look likely to gain any traction, but it does clearly indicate the direction our opponents want to take things and it could be used as a "worse of two evils" proposition wherein anti's seek a "compromise" to a less onerous version.
Note that the bill keeps stacking more responsibility and authority on the Attorney General. The Attorney General already has far too much control over firearms matters and it is likely that this excessive authority will be used in the next few years to accomplish goals that are not politically feasible through Congress.
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