The 113th Congress is officially in session, and legislators kicked off the new year, and new term, yesterday with several pieces of gun-related legislation, their response to December’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In total — between the Democrats’ proposed gun safety laws and the Republicans’ plans for expanded gun access — ten bills are being introduced today. Here they are:
1. Banning high-capacity ammunition. HR 138. This bill from Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) would ban anyone in the US from owning, buying, or trading high-capacity ammunition clips, like the kinds that are often used in mass shootings. Such clips allow a gunman to fire off as many as 100 rounds without stopping to reload. McCarthy’s connection to gun safety laws is personal: Her husband was killed and son critically injured during a mass shooting.
2. Closing the ‘gun show loophole.’ HR 141. Another measure from McCarthy requires that all gun purchasers undergo a full background check. As-is, the private sales of firearms, and the sale of guns at gun shows, are exempt from the background check requirements that are mandatory for other gun sales. That loophole is currently an easy way for criminals or the mentally ill to access a gun undetected.
3. Making the database of who cannot buy guns effective. HR 137. Currently, states do a terrible job of entering names — of felons or the mentally ill — into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This measure also from McCarthy is called the Fix Gun Checks Act, and has been introduced in previous legislative sessions. It would create incentives and penalties to encourage the efficient entry of names into NICS. It would also close the gun show loophole.
4. Regulating where and how ammunition is purchased. HR 142. McCarthy’s fourth and final bill would make it mandatory for all ammunition dealers to have a license to sell. It would also require anyone purchasing ammunition to do so in person, face-to-face with a seller. All bulk purchases of ammunition would need to be reported under McCarthy’s law. This bill responds to the criticisms that the internet is an open market for the unlimited sale of ammunition.
5. Requiring handguns to be registered. HR 117. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) crafted this national law based on his state’s requirements for handgun purchasing. It would require every single handgun sold in the United States to be licensed and registered, without any exceptions or loopholes, and for that registry to be easily accessible.
6. Regulating how gun licenses are issued. HR 34. Like Holt, Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-IL) bill aims to create a unified system of gun licensing procedures — for both handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Rush’s legislation, a reintroduction of “Blair’s Bill,” named after a murdered Chicago teen, would also require gun safety training for firearm owners.
7. Raising the age of legal handgun ownership to 21. HR 65. In a move that seems pointed toward combating youth street violence, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) proposed this bill that would make it illegal to own a handgun before the age of 21. Some states have such laws in place, but Jackson Lee’s measure would make the law national.
8. Requiring the reporting of stolen guns. HR 21. This bill, which Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has introduced to Congress previously and is reintroducing to the new Congress, would also close the ‘gun show loophole’ by requiring all gun-owners to undergo background checks. Additionally, it would make sure that gun owners are required to report stolen guns — a measure that could help law enforcement track illegal guns.
9. & 10. Eliminating ‘gun free zones’ in schools. HR 35 and HR 133. Following the lead of the National Rifle Association, Reps. Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) are both proposing more guns in schools. They want to eliminate “gun free school zones.” In a press statement, Stockman used this highly flawed logic as the reasoning for his bill: “In the 22 years before enactment of ‘gun free school zones’ there were two mass school shootings. In the 22 years since enactment of ‘gun free schools’ there have been 10 mass school shootings.”