Nevada Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) has co-sponsored a bill introduced by Representative Peter King (R-NY) which ought to get a hearing in the 113th Congress, but given the subject matter, and the disarray in House leadership, may not. H.R. 1565 offers a compromise solution to the firearms gun show/internet sale loophole.
The Congressional Research Service summary notes the purpose of the measure: “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013 – Amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to reauthorize for FY2014-FY2017 the grant program for improvements to the criminal history record system.” For those wishing for the return of the assault weapons ban — it’s not here. Nor will we find any references to limiting the ammunition capacity of semi-automatic firearms. However, the bill does address the laxity with which we are allowing the sale of firearms to dubious buyers.
Here’s what the bill does:
“Amends the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 to: (1) establish a four-year implementation plan to ensure maximum coordination and automation of reporting of records or making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; (2) direct the Attorney General to make grants to states, Indian tribal governments, and state court systems to improve the automation and transmittal of mental health records and criminal history dispositions; (3) provide for reductions in grant funding to states that have not implemented a relief from disabilities program; (4) make federal court information available for inclusion in the System; and (5) allow the submission to the System of mental health records that would otherwise be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).” [CRS]
The bill is NOT about creating a national gun registry — it’s about improving the record keeping concerning individuals who under the provisions of most state laws (including Nevada’s) cannot legally possess firearms.
Repeat! This is NOT about creating a gun registry, in fact the bill expressly prohibits it.
“Provides that nothing in this Act shall be construed to: (1) expand the enforcement authority or jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); (2) allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry; or (3) extend background check requirements to transfers of firearms other than those made at gun shows or over the Internet, or to temporary transfers for purposes including lawful hunting or sporting, or to temporary possession of a firearm for purposes of examination or evaluation by a prospective transferee.” [CRS] (emphasis added)
The bill, introduced last April 30th, would not have saved the Reno Police Department the embarrassment of the L’Affaire Conklin. However, it would have made funding available for the improvement of Nevada’s background check system.
Finally, the bill proposes some information gathering:
“Establishes the National Commission on Mass Violence to study the availability and nature of firearms, including the means of acquiring firearms, issues relating to mental health, and the impacts of the availability and nature of firearms on incidents of mass violence or in preventing mass violence. Requires the Commission to conduct a comprehensive factual study of incidents of mass violence, including incidents not involving firearms, to determine the root causes of such mass violence.” [CRS]
In terms of the “root causes” of mass violence, if the Commission completes its study, we’d find out what may already be reasonably obvious: There are some mentally disturbed individuals who should not possess firearms, especially semi-automatic weapons with high capacity clips, etc. It may also be reasonable to conclude that the findings might incorporate the problems associated with our mental health care delivery system, not the least of which is that support systems and monitoring available while a young person is enrolled in school are not as available for those who are on their own.
As well intentioned as this bill may be, it doesn’t address cumulative effects of gun violence. We know that in 2010 there were 16,259 homicides in the U.S. of which 11,078 were by firearms, that’s a hefty 68%. [CDC] If we add in all firearm deaths the numbers are even more depressing. Counting all firearms deaths, but excluding those caused by “legal intervention,” there were a total of 31,328 in 2010. [CDC pdf] Since 1999 there have been 360,558 individuals killed by firearms.
Nor does the bill address issues related to gun trafficking. Information from Virginia tells us that most of the guns used in criminal activities come from a minority of licensed gun dealers:
“There have been thousands of firearms dealers licensed in the state since 1998, but 60 percent of the 6,800 guns sold in Virginia in that time and later seized by police can be traced to just 40 dealers. The merchants include mom-and-pop gun shops, inner-city pawn dealers and suburban sporting-goods outlets.” [WaPo]
And, Virginia exports its problems, to New York for example:
“In 2011, the leading sources for firearms recovered and traced in New York City were Virginia (322), North Carolina (255) and South Carolina (251).
The latest data shows that 2,186 of 2,433 traceable guns used in crimes in the five boroughs in 2011 were brought in from out-of-state.” [StatenIsland]
Those two major issues notwithstanding, H.R. 1565 is a step in the correct direction.
The dementia of extremist gun enthusiasts, and their leaders and cohorts in the gun manufacturing business, should not obscure the very real problems associated with gun violence in this state and in this country. We accept reasonable limits on all other provisions of the Bill of Rights, yet the extremists among us decry any limits on gun possession. There is nothing unreasonable about efforts to diminish the possibility that guns will end up in the hands of career criminals, fugitives from justice, unsupervised children, and those who are afflicted with severe mental illnesses that render them likely to harm themselves and others.