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Gun Registry Bill Draws Massive Resistance

February 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With the election of Barack Obama in November came anxiety among gun owners that the constitutional right to bear arms would be curtailed. As the rest of the economy slumped, gun and ammunition sales surged following the election. Now there is a specific piece of legislation in Congress that gun-rights activists have identified as the leading threat – the Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush [D, IL-1], would establish a federal gun licensing and registry program that would help the government track information on gun ownership and gun sales across the country. It would apply to handguns and all rifles with a “detachable ammunition feeding device.”

Currently, this kind of registry is specifically banned under U.S. Code, so the bill proposes to undo a rule enacted by the 99th Congress under President Reagan, which reads:

No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established.

Along with the federal registry, the bill also proposes a federal licensing requirement for all gun owners. In order to get a license, a person would have to submit a photo, thumbprint, their address, a release of their mental health records, and more to the United States Attorney General. Current gun owners would have two years to acquire a license.

There are several other controversial provisions in the legislation, including the ability for the Attorney General to, “during regular business hours, enter any place in which firearms or firearm products are manufactured, stored, or held, for distribution in commerce, and inspect those areas where the products are so manufactured, stored, or held.”

It would also add a new “child access prevention” provision to U.S. law making it “unlawful for any person to keep a loaded firearm, or an unloaded firearm and ammunition for the firearm, any 1 of which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, within any premises that is under the custody or control of that person” if that person knows that a child could potentially acquire the firearm. Notice the “interstate commerce” language here that places this in Congress’ jurisdiction under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution. Similar language can be found in the bill’s findings section.

A similar bill was introduced by Rep. Rush in the last session of Congress, but it was never considered by committee. Like last year’s version, the Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 is currently sitting in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security with no legislative action planned.

For a bill that has received so little attention from Congress, it has received an incredible amount of attention from the public. In just the past 7 days, 35,769 people have viewed its page on OpenCongress. It’s also the second-most blogged about bill in Congress and second in the list of bills most often covered in the news. It’s gotten all this attention at the same time that the country’s focus on Congress has been firmly fixed on the $787 billion stimulus bill, nonetheless. One more thing – the bill’s standing among OpenCongress users as of this writing: 24 in favor – 1138 opposed.

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