New Schumer bill targets all gun sales, bolsters NICS
April 1, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Legislation aimed at tightening background check information on prospective gun buyers and requiring checks for practically all gun transfers, ostensibly to prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals, has been introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
The bill was co-sponsored only by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, also a New York Democrat, as this issue of Gun Week went to press.
Dubbed the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, S-436’s introduction was timed in concert with a rolling billboard tour sponsored by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and with the Brady Campaign’s new movie promoting more gun control.
The Bloomberg effort advertises the figure of 34 Americans killed everyday with firearms, with the number updated on a daily basis.
As a counter-move, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms had its own rolling billboard tour in several American cities. That rebuttal campaign advertises the fact that thousands of American citizens use firearms every day in self-defense, under the theme of “Guns Save Lives.”
Schumer’s legislation would require states to enter all pertinent records into background check databases, and require a background check for every gun purchase. The anti-gun effort was supported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Schumer’s office claims S-436 is designed to finally make background checks actually work.
As of now, it says, people deemed dangerous to the public can still legally buy a gun at a gun show, or through a regular gun dealer if their names are not in the background check database of the National Instant Check Systems (NICS).
The new Schumer bill, called The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 imposes tougher penalties on states that fail to adequately turn over records of those who are prohibited from owning a gun, such as people with mental illness, domestic violence records or drug abusers. The hope is that higher penalties would increase the states’ reporting to the NICS database.
“This legislation does nothing to impinge upon gun owners’ rights, but greater incentive for reporting individuals who should not have access to guns to the national do-not-sell list, helping better protect innocent Americans from senseless gun violence,” Schumer said in a statement.
The new bill is the latest of several which have been filed to exploit public concern about the recent Tucson, AZ, shooting in which six people were killed and 13 seriously wounded, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Needless to say, if passed, the legislation will put many of Bloomberg’s previous gun law proposals into effect.
Under current law, states that fail to report 50% or more of the records of people prohibited from buying a gun to the NICS database can face up to a 3% cut in their Justice Assistance Grant funding. Schumer’s legislation would increase the reporting requirement to 75% by fiscal year 2013 and 90% by FY 2018, with federal grant funding penalties increased to 15% and 25%, respectively.
Federal agencies, like the military, would also be required to certify to the US Attorney General, twice per year, that they have submitted all relevant records to the NICS database. This should provide greater concern for those involved with federal health programs such as the Veteran’s Administration, which has already dumped many mental health records into the NICS system that should not have been. And given the easy screening with a few questions used by the VA nowadays, hundreds of thousands of veterans could suddenly be prohibited from retaining old guns and buying new ones.
Finally, the bill addresses what some writers call the federal gun law’s most infamous problem, the so-called gun show loophole. The new legislation would require private sellers to verify, either with local law enforcement, or through certified gun dealers, that the person whom they are selling the gun to is not on the national NICS list.
There are a few exceptions in the bill’s language which Gun Week has examined. They include:
A bona fide gift between immediate family members, including spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren;
A transfer by an executor or administrator of an estate,
Certain temporary transfers, and
Transfer approved by the Attorney General for special circumstances.
Any private transfer between two individuals would have to involve a background check through the NICS systems by a dealer or by a law enforcement agency.
Thus, the legislation would affect all future gun show sales, or sales between individuals that had a gun show nexus.
Schumer and other politicians keep trying to convince the public that such federal controls on the transfer of firearms do not infringe on the Second Amendment.
For instance, New York City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) has addressed what he calls the gun show loophole before the City Council and supports Bloomberg’s way of dealing with what they see as a problem.
“I have a gun, I support the rights of (law-abiding gun owners), but only after rigorous background checks,” Vallone said in a statement to media. “Its ridiculous that in this day and age someone can walk into a gun show and walk away with a gun.”
As might be expected, advocates for “victims of gun violence” and those who promote gun control and limits on firearms civil rights are applauding Schumer’s new measure which they consider “long over due.”
However, some who have been impacted by gun violence do not support the bill. One such reported by New York area media is Danette Chavez, of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Her son was shot and killed, but she said new gun laws would not work.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on the problem,” Chavez said. “Tougher laws don’t get at the root cause of the problem.”
Whether Chavez’s wisdom, or the opposition of millions of lawful gunowners will get through to Schumer and others in Congress remains to be seen.
The problem with legislation like that introduced by Schumer is that the concept can be handled in several ways on Capitol Hill.
Looking back on the 1993-94 anti-gun craze in Washington, Schumer, then a member of the House of Representatives, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had separately proposed bans on semi-automatic, military-style firearms and large capacity magazines as stand-alone legislation. Their proposals were just a few of many anti-gun proposals in the legislative hopper. However, with President Bill Clinton pushing a broader, much more complex, and controversial anti-crime package, substantial parts of what Schumer and Feinstein proposed were finally included in the crime bill that passed.
Any legislation that is filed is always subject to inclusion as an amendment to any other legislation in the sausage factory that is Congress. Gunowners and pro-gun lawmakers have taken advantage of this parliamentary process during the Obama administration.
The fact that the Schumer-Gillibrand language is out there for discussion, while Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign are trying to salvage some anti-gun measure during the Obama years poses a special danger.
The anti-gunners have put on their war paint so this is no time for complacency by gun rights activists. The fact that there may be a new face of Congress since the 2010 elections, does not mean that the right to keep and bear arms is secure.
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