In May of 2018, Sabika Sheikh – a foreign exchange student from Pakistan – was one of eight students killed at the Santa Fe High School shooting. In 2019 – after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives – the Pakistani teen got top billing in a firearms licensing and registry bill that had no chance of survival in the GOP-controlled Senate.
It’s 2021 now, and the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the presidency. Reintroduced for the 117th Congress, what was once mere virtue signaling is now a viable bill that has some chance of redefining the Second Amendment as we know it. Under Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) H.R. 127 – the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act – the right to keep and bear arms would become a government-issued privilege, complete with annual license, mandatory insurance, and expensive fees.
Today, many gun control bills focus on “military-style weapons” while ignoring the fact that semi-automatic rifles are neither “military-style” nor the weapon of choice in most violent crimes. Since the 17-year-old shooter used his father’s legally owned pump action shotgun and .38 revolver at Santa Fe High School, this law can’t just be about AR-15s and AK-47s. It includes rigorous licensing requirements and fees, registration, safe storage requirements for all firearms and ammo, and aims to keep guns out of the hands of minors.
First up in the act is the registry. The attorney general would establish a firearm registration system through the ATF that would collect information like the make, model, and serial number of every firearm in the nation, the name of the owner, the date the firearm was acquired, and where it will be stored. If a weapon is loaned to someone else, that must be reported as well. This would be an immediate action required for all new purchases, and anyone already owning a firearm would have three months to register everything they have.
Gun registries aren’t popular, and for good reason. Almost every country that ever disarmed its populace started with a gun registry – that’s how they knew where to look. The most obvious and oft-cited example is Nazi Germany, but that seems unfair to more recent, less genocidal examples, like Australia, Canada, and the U.K. For that matter, gun registries have been used to disarm Americans in California and New York as both states changed the rules on what firearms were allowed.
This database would also be available not just to law enforcement and other government groups, but to “all members of the public” as well. Looking to steal a gun? This registry will tell you exactly who owns what and where they store it.
So, what would it take to get a license to own a firearm or ammunition? Applicants must be at least 21, pass a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check, pass a psychological evaluation, complete at least 24 hours of government-certified training in the use, safety, and safe storage of firearms, and pay for a special firearm insurance – which costs $800 per year.
The rules for the psych eval are vague and many. The first listed qualification is “such standards as shall be established by the Attorney General,” meaning that the rules as listed are subject to change at the whim of a single official. The evaluation must be conducted by a licensed psychologist – which makes sense. But the psychologist must also be approved by the attorney general. What might keep one doctor from being approved where another is? Also, if this approved psychologist deems it appropriate, your license application can also require evaluations for each other person in the household. Finally, the evaluation must include interviews with any spouse – current or former – and at least two other people known to the applicant. Naturally, any history of mental illness or addiction to drugs or alcohol are an immediate disqualification.
A separate license must be obtained in addition to the basic license to own any “military-style” weapon. This ubiquitous term, of course, doesn’t mean weapons used by the actual military – there are already laws in place regulating most of those. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s list of qualified brand and model names is long, but it basically comes down to any A.R. or A.K. style rifle or pistol and more than a few semi-automatic shotguns.
Banned outright are any “large capacity ammunition feeding devices,” which means anything capable of feeding more than ten rounds into the weapon except for tube-fed .22 rimfire rifles. Also prohibited would be any ammunition that is .50 caliber or greater. Without including any further definitions or exceptions, that’s a ban on any bullet half an inch in diameter or larger – including the 12-gauge slug.
Anyone caught with a gun or ammo but no license would face a fine between $75,000 and $150,000 and a prison sentence that could be as long as 25 years – but can’t be less than 15. Transferring anything requiring a license to someone who doesn’t have one comes with a penalty of between $50,000 and $75,000 fine and between ten and 15 years in prison. Loaning a firearm without telling the U.S. attorney general would come with a fine between $30,000 and $50,000 and prison term between five and ten years.
Letting anyone shoot a gun who isn’t at least 18 years old would incur a $75,000-$100,000 fine and 15-25 years in prison, unless a suicide, accident, murder, or general gun crime was then committed by the minor. The it would be $100,000 to $150,000 and 25-40 years.
The banned big bad bullets would buy you between ten and 20 years and a $50,000-$100,000 fine. Large capacity magazines come with 1-5 years and a $10,000-$25,000 fine. Finally, failing to maintain the $800 a year government-issued insurance would bring a fine no less than $50,000 and no more than $100,000 and a 10–20-year prison sentence.
The untimely death of Sabika Sheikh was tragic – as were the deaths of the other nine people killed that day, or the victims of any murder. Also tragic is the tendency of left-wing politicians to posthumously martyr these victims for some political cause. Will Sabika Sheikh be remembered in U.S. history as the name of a sweeping infringement on the rights of the people – like James Brady, immortalized in Bill Clinton’s Brady Bill?
Read more from James Fite.