by Bob Barr
It was only a matter of time. We knew it was coming – gun control.
Newly installed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has long advocated for limits on the right of citizens to own guns, so has Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and Vice President Kamala Harris always has been a cheerleader for gun control. Who can forget then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2020 publicly declaring he might, if elected, make extreme gun control advocate “Beto” O’Rourke his “gun czar.”
The waiting is over. The battle for the Second Amendment is underway in earnest, and the GOP had better be prepared to do serious battle or they (and the American people) will have their constitutional pocket picked clean.
Last week, House Democrats sent two bills to the Senate. Measures that enthrall the gun control crowd, not by making it more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms but by making it significantly harder for law-abiding citizens to purchase guns for self-defense or other lawful purposes.
Both bills — H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 – come with the time-worn gun control label as “common sense” measures designed solely to close “loopholes” in the National Instant Background Check System. While the “NICS” system has not worked perfectly (what federal program has?), it has served surprisingly well for more than two decades at preventing sales of firearms to individuals prohibited by law from possessing them. Regardless, gun control advocates have been looking for ways to expand it ever since it was first passed by Congress in 1993.
In fact, neither H.R. 8 nor H.R. 1446 are benign “reform” measures.
H.R. 1446, the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021,” is the more insidious of the pair. While pretending to do nothing more than extend the current legal time period available for the FBI (which administers NICS) to deny a proposed firearm sale from three business days to 10, its actual result would be to extend such time period for up to one month or more. During that time, a lawful applicant might remain defenseless against a stalker, deranged ex-spouse or another threatening individual.
Before NICS was passed in 1993, the Congress recognized that unless there was a strict time limit for gun purchase approvals, federal bureaucrats could “slow walk” applicants indefinitely; thus, the three-business day limit after which a gun retailer could legally complete the gun purchase even if not yet formally okayed by the FBI. However, in the latest move by the House, that bureaucratic “safe harbor” would extend far longer, possibly indefinitely. The result would be to significantly if not fatally undermine the ability of many gun purchasers to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right perhaps when they need it most.
The companion bill passing the House last week, H.R. 8, the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021,” is the Holy Grail of the gun control movement – Universal Background Checks. The intent of this bill, unlike the more opaque H.R. 1446, is clear. It would, with few exceptions (such as some gifts from one spouse to the other spouse) require that private transfers of firearms must fully comply with the same NICS process with which all sales from a licensed gun dealer now must comply.
The blind spot in all this is the “common sense” fact that these new procedures (which had been considered and rejected as overly broad and constitutionally problematic when considered by the Congress 28 years ago) will not stop individuals intent on obtaining and using firearms for unlawful purposes.
Even as the Congress now is fast-tracking the legislative gun control agenda, Biden appears ready to start using executive powers with the same goal in mind. One measure apparently under active consideration would be to return control over lawful export of firearms back to the bureaucratically heavy and liberally minded State Department, and strip the power from the Commerce Department where Trump had set it
All this is but a taste of what is certain to come in the months ahead as Pelosi, Schumer, and Harris busy themselves with directing steps to carry out Biden’s well-known desire to strip law-abiding citizens and businesses of ways by which they are able to exercise their Second Amendment rights. If the Republican Party and its representatives in the Congress fail to articulate clearly what such measures will really do, and if they fail to vigorously fight against all such measures, when the dust settles before the 2022 elections, our Second Amendment will emerge as but a skeleton of its intended and former self.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.