A CBS News poll last week suggested gun-control advocates have missed their moment of momentum to pass stricter regulations, with support down to 47 percent compared to 57 percent in the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook elementary.
Despite the administration’s attempts to keep the strictest measures, like a renewal of the assault weapons ban that not even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) thought could overcome procedural hurdles, in the spotlight — President Obama even had Newtown families at today’s Easter Egg Roll — Democrats are in for a challenge when Congress returns next week from recess.
Still, the debate is just around the corner. Before leaving for the Easter break, Reid began procedural motions to pick up a package of gun-control legislation when the Senate returns. It promises to bring high drama with a group of Republican conservatives threatening to filibuster any new gun bills.
The flurry of gun-control bills introduced at the beginning of the 113th Congress in January, many reactive to the Sandy Hook tragedy, just scratched the surface. Lawmakers continue to introduce new regulations, and many of these move forward in the shadow of more famous cousins such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) assault weapons ban. Still, control of congressional chambers may change, and there’s no guarantee these bills and others won’t have a life if reintroduced in a future Congress.
H.R. 236: Crackdown on Deadbeat Gun Dealers Act of 2013
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced this bill to increase the number of annual Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at gun dealers from one to three and increase to five years the term of imprisonment for knowingly making a false statement or representation in required firearms records. Dealers selling or otherwise disposing of any firearm or ammunition to any person knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such person is prohibited from possessing a firearm could face up to 10 years behind bars.
The bill would also give Attorney General Eric Holder authorization to suspend a dealer’s license and assess civil penalties for firearms violations, including failure to have secure gun storage or safety devices.
“Getting rid of these deadbeat gun dealers is an important complement to an effort that I hope will also include universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and improving mental health services,” said Langevin, who became a quadriplegic after he was paralyzed in a gun accident at age 16.
H.R. 332: Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act
Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) bill would remove barriers to civil liability for gun manufacturers, dealers and gun-rights interest groups, overriding 2005′s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Schiff theorizes that if gun manufacturers, shops, and even the NRA cared more about being sued, they’d promote more gun-control measures. He worked with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to draft the legislation.
“Good gun companies don’t need special protection from the law, and bad gun companies certainly don’t deserve it,” said Schiff. “Other industries across our country like automotive manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms and even cigarette companies don’t enjoy special protection under the law, and there is no reason to give the gun industry the right to act negligently. As part of our larger effort to stop gun violence in the country, everyone – including gun companies – should be held accountable for their actions.”
H.R. 868: Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act of 2013
Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) is proposing a two-year $360 million grant to the Department of Justice that would give gun owners prepaid debit cards in return for turning over firearms. The qualifying guns would be ones, according to the bill, most used in crimes: Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, Smith and Wesson .40 semiautomatic pistol, Haskell Hi-Point JHP 45 semiautomatic pistol, Iberia Firearm JCP40 pistol, Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, Hi-Point CF380 .380 semiautomatic pistol, Raven Arms .25 semiautomatic pistol, Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun, Smith and Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistol, Smith and Wesson .357 revolver, Bryco Arms 9mm semiautomatic pistol, Bryco Arms .380 semiautomatic pistol, Davis Industries .380 semiautomatic pistol, and Cobra FS380 .38 semiautomatic pistol.
The debit card given in exchange for the gun would “clearly and conspicuously” say “‘THIS CARD MAY NOT BE USED TO PURCHASE A GUN OR AMMUNITION’ in capital and raised letters on the card,” states the bill — the card even comes with an alert that will be triggered if the purchaser tries to use it to buy a gun. The amount is supposed to be 25 percent above market value of the gun; the congressman estimated that would usually result in a $40 to $400 debit card.
“Since the massacre in Newtown, there has been greater attention on the need to reduce violence in our neighborhoods,” said Payne. “Although no one piece of legislation will eliminate all gun violence, this bill is unlike any other in that it targets the most widely used guns in violent crimes. Many of these guns are old, they’re sold for little to nothing on the streets to young kids, and so they are very easy for criminals to get their hands on. Because these guns are sold at a higher value than market price, gun owners have an even greater incentive to trade in their old guns.”
“This bill truly is a win-win for states and municipalities because it will get guns off the streets, stimulate local economies, and provide an environmentally friendly use for the recycled materials,” he said.
H.R.965: To prohibit the possession or transfer of junk guns, also known as Saturday Night Specials
“It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or transfer a junk gun which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce,” states this bill. What does Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) mean by a “junk” gun? “A handgun that is not a sporting handgun,” the brief text of the legislation says. Sporting handgun would mean “a type generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”
Gutierrez announced the bill last month before holding a community meeting with Chicago clergy, community leaders and others to discuss gun-violence prevention strategies, where he distributed a fact sheet on guns most often recovered in crimes by the Chicago Police Department.
“We have had for many years a set of basic design and safety standards to regulate handguns that are imported to the United States. What has been absent are similar standards for domestically manufactured handguns, essentially allowing an unregulated market to flourish for these weapons,” Gutierrez said. “That is why my bill would ban junk guns and require that these handguns manufactured in the U.S. meet the same standards of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as the handguns we import.”
“When we regulate standards for cars and cribs and a whole host of products to ensure they are safe for public consumption – how does it make sense that we do not have basic safety standards for dangerous handguns made right here in America?”
H.R.538: Protect Law Enforcement Armor (PLEA) Act
Rep. Eliot Engel’s (D-N.Y.) bill is seemingly weapon-specific, vowing “to protect the Nation’s law enforcement officers by banning the Five-seveN Pistol and 5.7 x 28mm SS190, SS192, SS195LF, SS196, and SS197 cartridges.”
But it also prohibits “any other handgun that uses ammunition found to be capable of penetrating body armor.” Body armor would mean anything that “meets minimum standards for the protection of law enforcement officers.”
Within a year after the legislation would take effect, the attorney general would release standards for what qualifies as body-armor penetrating ammunition, which “shall take into account, among other factors, variations in performance that are related to the type of handgun used, the length of the barrel of the handgun, the amount and kind of powder used to propel the projectile, and the design of the projectile.”
“Law enforcement has been often outgunned from the deadly weapons and ammunition which is easily obtained over the internet and due to oft-abused loopholes. One such mass shooting took place at Fort Hood – targeting armed service members,” Engel said. “The madman who attacked them did so with a Five-seveN handgun, and he murdered 13 people and wounded 30 others.”
The accused Fort Hood shooter, Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, was active-duty at the time, though, and Engel’s bill excludes military, law enforcement and intelligence agency use.
“I proudly wear the ‘F’ grade I receive from the NRA whose craven opposition to every measure to stop the violence is maddening and offensive,” Engel said. “No one involved in this discussion has called for any measures to take weapons away from the vast majority of gun owners. We want to take them away from those most likely to murder children and teachers in class, movie goers in a theater, shoppers in a shopping mall and people in their place of worship.”