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Public Statements

Gun Safety

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today the Senate will vote on whether to invoke cloture on proceeding to S. 649. I will vote against invoking cloture and I wish to explain why.

I believe the government should focus on keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and those with mental issues that could cause them to be a threat to our society. The government should not punish or harass law-abiding citizens in the exercise of their second amendment rights. Unfortunately, S. 649 has the focus entirely backwards.

For example, the background check portion of S. 649 is Senator Schumer's bill that the Judiciary Committee reported out on a party-line basis. The aim of that bill, from its plain terms, could not be more clear. Section 121, the purpose section, provides that the aim of the bill is to require Americans to undergo background checks for ``all sales and transfers of firearms.'' If they don't, it is a Federal crime. Again, the requirement applies to all sales, and even transfers, of all firearms. And with very few exceptions, that is exactly what S. 649 does. The next section of the bill makes plain why that overly broad language is so problematic.

That section, section 122, provides that it is ``unlawful'' for any private party to ``transfer a firearm to any other person'' without first turning over that firearm to a commercial firearms dealer and having that dealer perform a background check. There are a few limited exceptions such as for gifts between immediate family members and inheriting a firearm. But that is it. In fact, the bill makes clear that transfer means not just sale but a ``gift, loan'' or any ``other disposition'' of that firearm.

So under the Schumer legislation, the following offenses would now be Federal crimes absent surrendering the firearms and conducting a background check. Federal offenses: An uncle giving his nephew a hunting rifle for Christmas; a niece giving her aunt a handgun for protection; a cousin loaning another cousin his hunting rifle if the loan occurs just 1 day before the beginning of hunting season; or one neighbor loaning another a firearm so his wife can protect herself while her husband is away.

The people I am describing are not criminals--they are neighbors, friends, and family--and the scenarios I am describing are not fanciful. They happen countless times in our country. But the Schumer bill would outlaw these transfers and it would make people such as these criminals.

But there are other problems with the legislation from the Senator from New York. Under his legislation, it is a crime for someone who lawfully possesses a firearm not to report a lost or stolen firearm to both the "appropriate local authorities,'' whoever they are, and the Attorney General within 24 hours. People should report firearms that are lost or stolen, but are we really going to make their failure to do so within 24 hours a Federal crime that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison? What if the person thinks the firearm is misplaced, not lost or stolen, but the person is actually wrong about that? And what if the person comes to the realization after 2 days instead of 1, and if they report the lost or stolen firearm to their sheriff--assuming he is one of the undefined ``appropriate local authorities''--why is it a crime if they don't report it to the Attorney General?

Why would the provision target only those who ``lawfully possess'' firearms, rather than criminals who do not lawfully possess them?

I could go on and on and list other problems with S. 649, but I think I have made my point. This bill is a clear overreach that will predominantly punish and harass our neighbors, our friends, and our families. To protect the rights of the law-abiding citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and other States, I will oppose invoking cloture on S. 649.

I yield the floor.

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