Gun Laws & Legislation

The Old Gun Control Ideas Are Back

By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation

There are simply no words to put into context the tragedy in Las Vegas. The murder and wounding of concertgoers defies rational thought. It was criminal, purely evil and entirely not representative of the community of law-abiding firearms owners.

This hasn’t slowed anti-gun politicians driving a narrative and agenda to demonize those who make and sell firearms and those who buy them and use them responsibly. It doesn’t matter that gun owners are overwhelmingly more law-abiding, or that they know no law could truly prevent unspeakable crimes.

More than half a dozen bills that would infringe on Second Amendment rights were filed, most within days of the crime and before the most basic facts were disclosed. Legislators are calling for a ban on devices like bump stocks that could accelerate the rate of fire on a semi-automatic firearm. NSSF agrees with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in asking ATF to review earlier determinations that these products were not regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 before considering any legislation in response to the tragedy in Las Vegas.

Still, familiar anti-gun politicians, backed by the usual anti-gun advocacy groups, are calling for the same bans and stringent legislation that would do anything to make Americans safer from criminals, nor have stopped or prevented the evil actions of a madman. Their proposals? You guessed it. Universal background checks, ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds and outlawing semi-automatic firearms.

NSSF has pushed back before against these legislative proposals and we’ll do it again. It’s important for everyone to know why.

Universal background checks are a common refrain. There are several problems with this idea including the fact that UBC legislation would effectively shut down sales by retailers during weekends. And, obviously criminals don’t bother following the law. The Obama-era Justice Department acknowledged UBC requires national gun registration to be effective. All commercial sales are already conducted with an industry-supported FBI criminal background checks or the state equivalent. The Las Vegas criminal passed background checks because, prior to his senseless crime, he had no criminal record that would preclude him from buying a gun.

Those calling for universal background checks often can’t define what they mean. Is it sales between friends? Does it include inherited firearms? What about a rifle or shotgun loaned to a friend for a hunting trip?

Magazine restrictions likewise make little sense. The Clinton administration banned magazines holding more than 10 rounds at the same time they instituted a so-called Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found magazine capacity restrictions didn’t equal crime reduction. In fact, after the restrictions were lifted, violent crime fell 17 percent while the number of so-called “high capacity” magazines have reached at least 115 million.

Those calls to action pale in comparison, though, with that of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who at one point seemed to be calling for an undifferentiated ban on semi-automatic firearms. The question from a news reporter mentioned AR-15s. He didn’t qualify his answer. He said he’s for a ban on all semi-automatic firearms. Does he want us to bid goodbye to handguns, shotguns and rifles? Specificity in pursuit of such policy is apparently too much to ask. Sen. Murphy was called out by the Washington Post Fact Checker this week and awarded three Pinocchios for false claims about past gun control success. He previously earned four of the long-nose awards, bringing his total score to seven. The ban was an epic fail, first because it erroneously classified semi-automatic rifles as so-called assault weapons based on cosmetic features, and second, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nothing in the Clinton-era ban did anything to reduce crime, and a further Congressional study found modern sporting rifles and magazines were never used in more than a “modest fraction” of crimes, even before the ban was signed into law.

NSSF will continue to fight legislation misaimed at law-abiding Americans and our industry. We won’t allow those with political agendas to paint our industry with false accusations in pursuit of unconstitutional restrictions on our customers’ ability to lawfully purchase the firearms that best suit their needs.

Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.