After the GOP lost the House to the Democrats, the flood of “common sense” progressive proposals was inevitable. Each week, Liberty Nation digs up the little gems hidden among the legislative slop that can make a huge difference to your freedom.
Federal Gun Offender Registry?
From New York City to Baltimore, Chicago, and the Swamp, there are local registries for firearms offenders in several of the biggest and most dangerous cities in the nation. Is it time to adopt such a practice nation-wide? According to Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), it is.
Rep. Espaillat introduced H.R. 2303 Friday, April 12, in hopes of establishing just such a registry. There is not yet a text available, and there’s no press release from the congressman’s office regarding this bill. However, given his home state and the description for this particular proposal – “To establish a registration for violent gun offenders, to provide for sufficient notification of their whereabouts, to honor the memory of Gladys Ricart and other gun crime victims, and for other purposes” – it’s probably safe to say it would mirror the registry currently in place in New York City.
Proponents of gun offender registries argue, of course, that such measures are a necessity for public safety. Not everyone agrees, however. Many have questioned why, if it’s to save lives by informing the public of potential threats, only gun offenders need a registry. Why not all violent criminals? And let’s consider a hypothetical that supports this point. Who is more potentially dangerous as a neighbor: Someone caught with an unregistered handgun in New York City, or a guy with convictions for unarmed assault or even stabbing people? The first is required by law to register; the second is not. Who would you rather live next door to?
The constitutionality of such registries has, of course, been questioned in almost every case – but to no avail. The answer to whether they’re legitimate will depend largely on the individual interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many advocates of an armed citizenry would argue that the Second Amendment is absolute and that all gun control measures are infringements. As we know, however, numerous courts – including SCOTUS – tend to disagree.
Rep. Espaillat’s bill currently has zero co-sponsors – an odd situation, given the anti-gun leaning of the now Democrat-controlled House. Regardless of how it fares in that chamber, however, it seems unlikely that H.R. 2303 could clear the GOP-held Senate or President Trump’s veto pen.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican Representative Tom Rice of South Carolina – on the same day – introduced the 21st Century NICS Act. In 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine black churchgoers at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The attack brought the broken NICS system back to the forefront of the gun control debate, as he had previously been arrested and was out on bail at the time of the shooting. Rep. Rice claims his bill, H.R. 2319, would close what has become known as the Charleston loophole by granting the FBI the authority to search for records in the National Data Exchange database.
Currently, when someone wishes to purchase a firearm and the so-called instant background check – or a brief phone call to the FBI – doesn’t immediately return the all clear, the request is sent to a NICS examiner, who must fax local law enforcement agencies to ask for records and wait for a response. If this process isn’t complete within three days, it falls to the distributor to decide whether to process the sale. As you can probably imagine, this carries with it the potential to both allow legally prohibited persons to purchase firearms and prevent sales to those with absolutely no criminal background whatsoever.
As Rep. Rice asked in his press release: “Why have this database if it isn’t going to be used effectively?” Why indeed? It certainly makes sense to fix the system if we’re going to have it – though some would argue the appropriate answer is to scrap it altogether.
H.R. 2319 has 14 co-sponsors – two of whom are Democrats. This bill’s fate in the House may well rest on how Democrats choose to look at it. This act should, in theory, prevent more criminals from buying firearms. For anyone who actually wants gun control laws that focus on the criminal, not the weapon, this is a point in the bill’s favor. On the other hand, it would also smooth out the process for those with clean backgrounds who get caught up in the bureaucratic web. As we know, Democrats, in general, do want to disarm the people, regardless of what they may say come campaign season. Then there’s always the possibility that some might fight it simply because it doesn’t go far enough – that is, it doesn’t establish a registry or ban any guns outright. Bills like this, though, seem to be the most likely gun control measures to succeed. Anyone who believes that certain groups of people should be stripped of the right to keep and bear arms could get behind legislation such as this – regardless of party affiliation.
Second Amendment Crisis for Military Spouses
Drowned out by all the debate over whether we should pass more firearms regulations or just “fix NICS,” there’s another “common sense” restriction in dire need of attention. Many military spouses are being denied their Second Amendment rights. U.S. citizens who wish to buy firearms are required to do so in their home states. For those who often move – like many active service members and their immediate families – this would mean establishing residency in the new state before completing any purchase. Many do not – understandable, given the frequency and temporary nature of such moves. For the actual military personnel, this rule doesn’t apply. They’re spouses, however, aren’t so lucky. This is especially difficult on them, as they may be home alone – or home alone with the kids – for months on end should their partner be deployed overseas.
Marine Corps veteran and California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter has proposed a solution. H.R. 2251, titled “Protect Our Military Families’ 2nd Amendment Rights Act,” would extend the exemption to the rule already in place for active service members to their spouses. Seems simple enough, but will it win out, or die in the anti-gun House of the 116th Congress?
From Rep. Hunter’s press release:
“While the Protect Our Military Families’ 2nd Amendment Rights Act would extend the current military exemption of state residency to spouses, it does not in any way remove their responsibility of complying with all other federal regulations, including background checks. This bill is cosponsored by Congressman Don Young of Alaska and endorsed by the National Rifle Association.”
Alaska’s at-large representative is the only co-sponsor. Still, it seems like a bill likely to garner considerable support from the GOP and the handful of Democrats who don’t want the Second Amendment repealed – yes, they do exist. However, as a firearms reform that returns the right to bear arms rather than revokes it, it seems unlikely to ever see the Senate and President Trump –especially given that NRA endorsement.
Tune in next week for more highlights – or lowlights – from Congress.
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