PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN ARMS ACT -- (House of Representatives - October 20, 2005)
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Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, while I sympathize with the original objective of S. 397, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, I am forced to oppose this legislation primarily because of unconstitutional gun control amendments added to the bill in the Senate.
As a firm believer in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and an opponent of all Federal gun laws, I cannot support a bill that imposes new, unconstitutional gun controls on Americans. I believe that the Second Amendment is one of the foundations of our constitutional liberties. In fact, I have introduced legislation, the Second Amendment Protection Act (H.R. 1703), which repeals misguided Federal gun control laws such as the Brady Bill.
Senate amendments added two sections to S. 397 that impose unconstitutional controls on American gun owners and sellers.
First, a section was added to the bill to outlaw any licensed gun importer, manufacturer, or dealer from selling, delivering, or transferring a handgun without a ``secure gun storage or safety device.'' Each and any violation of this requirement can result in a person being fined up to $2,500 or having his license revoked. This gun lock requirement amounts to the imposition of a new Federal tax on each handgun sale because gun buyers will be forced to pay the cost of the ``secure gun storage or safety device'' that is required with a handgun, irrespective of if that device is desired. Further, the severe penalties for noncompliance--whether intentional or accidental--add yet more weight to the crippling regulations that hang over gun transactions in the United States.
Second, a section was added to the bill to create draconian penalties for people who possess ``armor piercing'' bullets. Just like the Democratic Congress before it that passed the ``assault weapons'' ban, the Republican Congress is poised to give in to anti-gun rights scare tactics by selectively banning bullets. Instead of each gun owner being able to decide what ammunition he uses in his gun, Federal bureaucrats will make that decision. To recognize the threat such regulation places on gun owners, just consider that a gun without ammunition is nothing more than an expensive club. Regulating ammunition is the back door path to gun regulation.
The ``armor piercing'' bullets restriction imposes a 15 years mandatory minimum sentence for just carrying or possessing such bullets--even without a gun--during or in ``relation to'' a crime of violence or drug trafficking. Given the wide scope of criminal laws and the fact that people are on occasion accused of crimes they did not commit, this provision promises to discourage many non-violent, law-abiding individuals from possessing ammunition protected under the Second Amendment. Further, it does not take much imagination to see how such a provision could be used by an anti-gun prosecutor in the prosecution of an individual who used a gun in self defense, especially considering that use of such bullets to murder can result in a death sentence. In such instances, a defendant who exercised self defense may well accept a guilty plea bargain to avoid the severe enhanced penalties imposed under S. 397.
I am particularly disturbed that the House of Representatives' leadership has taken the unusual step of bringing S. 397 to the floor for a vote without House members at least having an opportunity to vote on removing the gun control amendments. Instead of voting on a bill that contains the new gun control provisions, we should be considering H.R. 800, the House version of S. 397 prior to its perversion by gun control amendments. Notably, Gun Owners of America has written to House members to request that they oppose S. 397 and, instead, support H.R. 800. Last month, I wrote to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Committee on the Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner of my opposition to these anti-gun rights provisions in S. 397. While I am concerned about some of the federalism implications of H.R. 800, it is a far superior bill because it neither requires gun locks nor restricts gun owners' ammunition choices.
With 258 sponsors and cosponsors, H.R. 800 would easily pass the House. The House voting for H.R. 800 would allow the differences between H.R. 800 and S. 397 to be reconciled in conference committee. In conference, every expectation would be that the new gun control provisions would be stripped from the legislation given that the original, unamended S. 397 had 62 Senate sponsors and cosponsors--a filibuster proof majority--in the Senate.
I regret that, under the guise of helping gun owners, the House of Representatives is today considering imposing new unconstitutional gun controls. I, thus, must oppose S. 397.
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