Efforts by advocates to push gun control legislation in state legislatures and the new Congress have led to a flurry of bills that sponsors say are aimed at reducing shootings, suicides and domestic violence, along with other proposals that call for expanding gun rights.
Several gun control bills were introduced in Congress last week to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which a former student killed 17 people and wounded 17 others.
“We are now at the point where at least one house can move these measures,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said at a telephone town hall meeting with CeaseFirePA last Thursday. “We’ve got to work like hell to get the United States Senate to do more work on the issue.”
While it is likely the U.S. House will be able to pass gun control bills with its Democratic majority, there are very low chances that the Senate’s Republican leadership will give any a vote; likewise, House Democrats would likely stymie any gun rights expansions.
The House leadership’s top priority is a universal background checks bill, which was passed out of committee last week, and which members of Congress believe has the best chance of any proposal • if still slim • of getting a vote in the Senate. Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence, the first in the chamber in nearly a decade.
Other measures echo bills introduced, and in some cases passed, in state legislatures from Pennsylvania to California. Some have been pitched in past sessions.
They include proposals to:
• Raise the age to purchase semiautomatic assault rifles to 21.
• Establish extreme risk protection orders, which allow family members to ask a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.
• Prevent known domestic abusers or stalkers from possessing firearms.
• Prohibit semiautomatic weapons through an assault weapons ban.
• Prohibit the use and manufacture of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
• Regulate semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 under the National Firearms Act, which requires the registration of certain types of weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
• Regulate pistols that can fire armor-piercing bullets under the National Firearms Act.
• Establish and expand criminal offenses for trafficking firearms or straw purchasing.
• Repeal restrictions on tracing gun data and create a coordinated national research program on gun violence, ownership, use and trafficking.
• Appropriate funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence.
• Require safe storage of firearms in homes.
• Require safe storage of firearms by dealers and manufacturers.
Extreme-risk protection order laws, which have been successful in states including Maryland and Indiana in reducing suicide in particular, have garnered some bipartisan support and could become a prominent policy issue in the gun control debate. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., sponsored that bill and a bill expanding domestic violence abuse protections.
“Giving family members and cohabitants the right to petition a court to have a firearm removed from someone found to be dangerous should not be controversial,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement last week, when the bill was introduced. “This process protects Second Amendment rights by ensuring due-process rights are respected during the judicial process.”
Among measures that would expand gun rights is a concealed carry reciprocity bill, which would allow anyone who legally carries a concealed firearm to possess it in any other state that allows concealed carry.
“Since state borders shouldn’t restrict constitutional rights, this legislation ensures people who are legally entitled to carry a concealed firearm in one state can also carry in another state as long as they respect the laws of any other state they visit,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
House Republicans have brought back a proposal to ease restrictions on silencers and eliminate federal silencer registration records, which had been up for consideration before the October 2017 shooting of hundreds at a country music festival in Las Vegas. A Senate bill would prohibit federal funding of state firearm ownership databases. Another measure would allow an established excise tax on firearm purchases more flexibility to be used for establishing or expanding public target shooting ranges, including on federal land.