The freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment should not be considered less than the other freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights. Legislation to restrict rights such as free speech, freedom of the press, and due process during criminal proceedings would rightly raise an outcry.
The right to keep and bear arms should not be considered differently, and I will never vote to infringe your Second Amendment rights.
Notwithstanding the constitutional right to bear arms, the House Democrats put on the floor and passed in one week two bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, that would restrict your Second Amendment rights. There certainly has been an outcry; I have heard from many constituents of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District strongly in opposition to these bills.
First up was H.R. 8, which would expand background checks to cover the private transfer of firearms between individuals. Were this bill to become law, violations could incur up to a year in prison and a fine of $100,000.
It is difficult to see what H.R 8 would accomplish beyond adding to the burdens of responsible gun owners. Under current law, firearms dealers must hold a Federal Firearm License and are required to run a background check on firearms purchasers in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Current federal law imposes other restrictions that make those placed upon gun owners by H.R. 8 unnecessary. Firearms cannot be sold to anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm or to anyone across state lines who lacks a firearms license. Nor can anyone provide a handgun to a juvenile except for limited purposes, and dealers cannot sell rifles or shotguns to individuals under 18 years of age.
With these actions already criminalized, the prohibitions and penalties of H.R. 8 would fall upon much more mundane transactions. A person could not lend his or her firearm to a friend concerned about self-defense, for example, without a background check. Tracking firearm transfers under H.R. 8 would also set up the possibility of a national gun registry, something that greatly concerns gun owners.
An amendment offered by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) clarified that a gun owner concerned about harming him- or herself can transfer the firearm to a friend without a background check.
But stop and think about it: the fact that the amendment had to be offered at all is concerning, but to be offered by one of the most liberal Members of Congress shows how broadly this bill could affect private gun transfers and indeed your Second Amendment rights.
H.R. 1446 also imposes on gun owners by prolonging background checks through NICS. Current law requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete such checks on anyone legally attempting to buy a gun through a federal firearms licensee within three days. With H.R. 1446, completing a check could potentially be put off indefinitely by the FBI due to inaction.
Delaying the completion of background checks or letting them be swallowed into a bureaucratic black hole would effectively deny Americans their Second Amendment rights, potentially with dangerous consequences if the firearm being purchased is for self-defense.
The case of New Jersey resident Carol Bowne, who sought a gun to protect herself but was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2015 before the lengthy state permitting process was complete, indicates the damage that can result from protracted background checks.
For all the impositions placed upon gun owners by H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, these measures would not have prevented high-profile tragic episodes of gun violence we have seen in this country. Too often, these calamities resulted from a failure to adequately enforce current laws. Those failures should not deny law-abiding Americans their Second Amendment rights.
I strongly opposed H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 and cast my votes against them. Additionally, I have introduced this year my own bill, H.R. 225, to protect gun owners lawfully traveling through jurisdictions of the country with strict restrictions on firearms.
The Ninth District is home to many gun owners who buy, carry, and use their firearms for self-defense, hunting, recreation, and plenty more legitimate reasons. Congress should not be in the business of criminalizing constitutional rights, and as long as I am in the House, I will defend them.
For questions, concerns, or comments, call my Abingdon office (276) 525-1405, Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671 or via email at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.