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The American Independent

The GOP's extreme bills: Repeal gun safety laws

Republicans in Congress are proposing to override state gun safety rules, cut taxes for gun purchasers, and roll back the few existing federal firearms laws

By Josh Israel - March 20, 2023
U.S. Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) speaking at a Congressional Hispanic Conference press conference at the U.S. Capitol. On the lapel of her coat below her Congressional pin is a pin shaped like an assault rifle.
U.S. Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) speaking at a Congressional Hispanic Conference press conference at the U.S. Capitol. On the lapel of her coat below her Congressional pin is a pin shaped like an assault rifle. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Republican lawmakers have proposed more than a dozen bills to roll back gun safety laws, cut taxes for gun buyers, and offer special protections for the firearm and ammunition industries.

Polls have shown that most American adults want stricter gun laws.

More than 9,000 Americans have already died from gun violence this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and the United States has already seen at least 113 mass shootings since the start of the year.

A May 2022 poll by Morning Consult/Politico found that 65% of registered voters said they support stricter gun laws, while 28% said they oppose such laws. Of the respondents, 88% strongly backed universal background checks, 67% supported a ban on assault-style weapons, 69% supported a ban on high-capacity magazines, and 80% supported a mandatory three-day waiting period for gun purchases. The poll respondents also said they oppose making it easier to buy gun silencers by a 66%-22% margin.

Before the 2022 midterm elections, House Republicans released a “Commitment to America,” promising that if they won the majority, they would “safeguard the Second Amendment” and “reduce crime and protect public safety.”

But gun violence experts told the American Independent Foundation that many of the gun bills already filed this year would make citizens less safe and put law enforcement officers at risk.

One bill, Missouri Republican Rep. Eric Burlison’s Repeal the NFA Act, would completely repeal the National Firearms Act, a 1934 law aimed at combating Prohibition Era gun violence.

“It’s a really strong regulatory scheme in that it addresses some of the most dangerous weapons that exist: fully automatic machine guns, silencers, short barrel rifles and several other types of weaponry,” Adzi Vokhiwa, federal affairs director for the nonprofit Giffords Law Center, explained. “And because of the strong regulatory scheme of the [National Firearms Act], we don’t see those types of really dangerous weapons used in crimes very often.”

If the law is repealed, Vokhiwa warned, “it would really make crime much worse in this country. It would make things really dangerous for law enforcement who are trying to keep our community safe.”

She noted that Giffords tracks state-by-state gun laws and has found that states with looser rules are typically more dangerous than states with tighter restrictions:

“There is a very, very strong correlation between strong gun laws and less violence. So you know as much as Republicans talk about crime and how it’s a concern for the American public, these types of proposals that would erode federal firearm laws and make more guns available in public are the exact opposite of what they should be doing.”

Mark Collins, director of federal policy for the nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, pointed to H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, as especially harmful. Sponsored by North Carolina Republican Rep. Richard Hudson and co-sponsored by 153 Republican colleagues and Maine Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill would allow anyone who can legally carry a concealed weapon in their home state to do so in any other state, regardless of that state’s laws.

A provision in that bill could make police in those states with stricter gun laws vulnerable to lawsuits.

“Where it really gets interesting, and this is the part that’s perhaps most dangerous, is that it includes a private right of action against, essentially, police. If the police detain or arrest you basically to ascertain whether or not you’re lawfully carrying the firearm, you have a private right of action against them,” Collins said. “So you are disincentivizing police to not only enforce the laws of their own state, but from even determining whether or not somebody is legally carrying a gun.”

He also pointed to the Hearing Protection Act, sponsored by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, (R-SC), which would deregulate gun silencers, which have been regulated since passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934.

“The argument, of course, there is that silencers are very rarely used in crime these days,” Collins observed. “And there’s a reason for that: [it] is because they are also very heavily regulated. If you’d like to buy a silencer, you have to get a background check, you have to submit a photograph, you have to submit fingerprints, you have to pay a $200 transfer tax.”

Collins said there is no evidence that gun deregulation would make people safer. “They certainly wouldn’t fix the problem,” he said of the GOP’s current bills. “If more guns in more places were the solution, we’d already be the safest country on the planet.”

Two pro-gun bills would grant special legal protections to gun and ammo businesses. For the second congressional session in a row, North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer has filed his Fair Access to Banking Act, which would force banks to provide loans to gun companies. Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman have proposed the Firearm Industry Non-Discrimination (FIND) Act to bar the federal government from “entering into contracts with an entity that discriminates against firearm trade associations or businesses that deal in firearms, ammunition, or related products.”

Other proposals would eliminate state and federal taxes on firearm sales and designate the AR–15-style assault rifle, often used in mass shootings, the “national gun” of the United States.

Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, who owns a multimillion dollar stake in a gun store, even distributed AR-15-shaped pins to colleagues, including fellow co-sponsor New York Rep. George Santos.

Shannon Watts, founder of the nonprofit group Moms Demand Action, predicted in an emailed statement that there would be political consequences for the Republicans pushing these bills:

It’s shameful that some extremists in Congress are putting profits for the gun industry ahead of public safety by pushing dangerous proposals to defund federal law enforcement and abolish the ATF, or supporting measures that make it easier for criminals to carry guns in public. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that gun safety isn’t just good policy, it’s good politics, and anyone on the wrong side of this issue will pay the price at the ballot box.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation

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