Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) today co-sponsored bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to help prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals, while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Connolly cosponsored the bipartisan House bill - the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013, H.R. 1565 - with Congressmen Peter King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA). The legislation would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales to ensure that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill cannot slip through background check loopholes that endanger the safety and rights of every American.
The bill is identical to the bipartisan agreement on background checks struck by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), which failed to get the supermajority required to overcome a filibuster by Republican senators.
"We need to do something to stop the carnage caused by gun violence, and this bill is a good start," Connolly said. "You can't be against criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill getting guns and be against background checks. This bill is anti-crime and pro-lawful gun owner. It will save lives without threatening the Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. It deserves a vote in the House."
The legislation greatly reduces the number of places where a criminal can buy a gun. Right now, a criminal can buy a firearm in the parking lot of a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad without needing a background check. The bill closes these loopholes while ensuring that background checks are conducted in the same way federally-licensed dealers have functioned for more than 40 years.
The legislation also protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners by banning the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides reasonable exceptions for transfers between family and friends and allows active military personnel to buy guns in the state they are stationed. It lets gun owners use a state concealed carry permit issued within the last five years in lieu of a background check and permits interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.
The bill also improves the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by incentivizing states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grant funds toward better record-sharing systems. The bill will also reduce federal funds to states that do not comply.
Even the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, in testimony before Congress in 1999, said expanded background checks were appropriate and should be done.