Rep. McCarthy introducing national gun control legislation following Sen. Schumer’s lead

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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A House bill that could drastically overhaul the nation’s gun control laws and strengthen federal power over states’ handling of individuals’ background checks is expected to be introduced today by New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, The Daily Caller has learned.

McCarthy is expected to drop the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 — a  near-identical companion to that of fellow New Yorker Chuck Schumer’s Senate bill — according to sources familiar with the legislation.

A draft of the bill obtained by TheDC makes clear that McCarthy’s legislation significantly mirrors Schumer’s much-publicized bill and would make three significant changes to current national gun laws. McCarthy’s proposed fixes include gun-control advocates’ long-sighted target in the national firearms debate — closing major “loopholes” of the milestone Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

Like its Senate companion, the House bill would also increase penalties for states that do not comply with the NICBC’s current requirements. States that do not make available the data needed to assess those who are or may be prohibited from possessing firearms could face reductions in the amount of federal crime-fighting funds they receive.

Another major provision of both bills focuses on the mental health issues of those seeking to possess firearms.

Apart from further defining and stipulating who qualifies as a “mental defective” both bills call for the development of mental health assessment plans for institutes for higher learning. Both bills would require federally funded colleges to develop a plan for the institutes to address risks posed by students who appear to need mental health help. Colleges must have a mental health “team” ready to assess potentially dangerous students as well as procedures in place for making voluntary and involuntary mental health referrals.

“Here we go again,” said National Rifle Association spokesman Alexander Arulanandam. “Rather than focusing her efforts on going after criminals [or] focusing her efforts on getting more information on ATF’s Fast and Furious program, [McCarthy is] opting to put more stringent regulations on law-abiding people.”

The NRA said that most criminals, especially the mental health cases like that of the Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and alleged Arizona gunman Jared Loughner make it through the cracks because current laws already in place are simply not being followed. Further restrictions on those law-abiding citizens who may have received some form of mental health treatment are being further punished.

“It’s too bad that this bill would put the burden on innocent people who are not a threat of society,” said Arulanandam, whose comments, like other 2nd Amendment advocates are in response to inquiries by TheDC, before obtaining a full copy of McCarthy’s draft bill. “Most people go through traumatic periods during their life and may seek some help and that person has never exhibited signs of being a threat to themselves or others. If that disqualifies them, that seems unreasonable … to say that that person cannot own a firearm.”

The legislation in both the House and the Senate represent just the latest reemergence of the national firearms debate following the Jan. 6 shootings in Tuscon, in which than a dozen were injured including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her traumatic brain injuries. On March 13, President Obama wrote an Arizona Daily Star Op-ed, calling for a “common sense” discussion over gun laws and the phrase was echoed by Democratic politicians, as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is head of the gun-control group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Two days after Obama’s op-ed, Schumer — along with McCarthy, Bloomberg and several other leading Democrats — held a press conference in front of the Capitol to push for more gun-control legislation. At the time, McCarthy indicated she was days away from introducing her companion piece. As the weeks went by, McCarthy’s office said it was carefully reviewing the legislation and listening to various concerns.

McCarthy appears to have taken some of those concerns to heart. Conspicuously absent from the Representative’s legislation is Schumer’s controversial proposal to ban the possession of firearms to anyone who’s been arrested, but not convicted, of a drug-related crime in the past five years.

In his op-ed, Obama stressed that the country should be “enforcing the laws already on the books,” and both gun-rights and gun-control advocates have expressed concerns that current firearms requirements are not being met. Gun-rights advocates, however, have called recently proposed legislation and publicity-seeking efforts of Bloomberg, cynical politicking in the wake of a tragedy. These critics, who have been winning legal ground the past few years, say that gun-control advocates are looking to restrict 2nd amendment rights any way they can, and not have any “common sense” debate.

Aside from the various proposals and arguments over legislation, legislators seem focused on one key aspect of the national firearms debate.

Since the Brady Act was signed into law in 1993, control-control advocates, including Rep. McCarthy, have targeted the “gun show loophole.” Although many states require gun-owner to register their firearms, the “loophole” allows any gun owner to conduct individual private sales without performing a full background check on the purchaser. Both Schumer’s bill and McCarthy’s propose requiring background checks for every firearm sold in the United States.

Although some data indicates otherwise, gun-control advocates claim criminals and those prohibited from obtaining firearms according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBC) can purchase weapons at these large congregations of private gun sellers.

Specific legislation to close the “gun show loophole” has been introduced in nearly every Congress since the Brady Act was passed and McCarthy has been a key figure in the annual fight. The representative has sponsored legislation specifically targeting gun shows at least six times in the past 11 years, including the most recent Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2011. McCarthy’s draft bill is exactly like Schumer’s most recent senate bill, however, in that it offers general prohibitions against any “unlicensed transferor.” Gun shows are not specifically mentioned in either the bill but it essentially means anyone who is not a licensed firearms dealer or any agent of the state capable of conducting immediate background checks.

Another key concerns of gun-control advocates, the availability of high-capacity magazine clips, is not mentioned in either bill.

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