It’s bad enough that antigun members of Congress want to enact federal legislation to impose the elitist views of their coastal enclaves on the entire country. What’s worse is that in typical Big Government fashion, they want to use your tax dollars to accomplish their schemes. The latest example of this is the “Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act,” which at least has the distinction of having an honest title, a rarity for antigun legislation. Rather than establishing the licensing mandate at the federal level, however, this bill would create a federal grant program to bribe states to do it themselves.
The bill’s sponsors include Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (both D-Conn.), Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-Conn.), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). All hail from states that have their own handgun licensing requirements. The bill’s findings claim, “Recently published research by top national experts, notably on Missouri and Connecticut hand-gun purchaser licensing laws, have estimated that Missouri’s repeal of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates while Connecticut’s adoption of its handgun purchaser licensing law led to a 40 percent decrease in firearm homicide rates.”
Apparently, this claim is supposed to give the bill the veneer of “evidence-based” policy making. In truth, the idea of using a federally-backed licensing requirement to create firearm registries and to suppress firearm ownership by making it more expensive and burdensome is nothing new. For almost a decade, for example, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has been introducing the “Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record Sales Act,” which would enact a direct federal mandate for the licensing of firearm ownership. In other words, the evidence manufactured by Michael Bloomberg’s bought and paid-for “Center for Gun Policy and Research” at Johns Hopkins didn’t stimulate the idea, it is trying to bootstrap it.
An analysis conducted by John R. Lott, renowned economist and director of the Crime Prevention Research Center, indicates the study on Connecticut cited by the bill’s authors misrepresents the facts. “[U]nexplained,” Lott states, “is that the firearms homicide rate was falling even faster immediately prior to the licensing law.” Lott also accuses the researchers of cherry-picking their data. Lott notes: “To see … how sensitive the results are to the dates chosen, while it is true that Connecticut’s firearm homicide rate fell by 40% from 1995 to 2005, it only fell by 12.5% between 1995 and 2010. Meanwhile from 1995 and 2010, the US firearm homicide rate fell by 39% and the Northeast firearm homicide rate fell by 31%.”
According to Lott, the bottom line is that Connecticut’s overall violent crime rate as well as the violent crime rates for robbery and aggravated assaults had fallen before the licensing started and that when the licensing started they stopped falling and started to rise. While murder rates remained flat after Connecticut’s licensing law was adopted, other types of violent crime have shown a rising trend since then.
Press releases by the bill’s authors also indicate their desire to increase background checks for handgun purchasers. For example, Van Hollen’s press release states, “permit-to-purchase requirements ensure that licensed and unlicensed firearm sellers are required to sell handguns to individuals with a valid permit or license.” Neverthless, the bill’s requirements could actually reduce background checks on firearm sales from federally licensed dealers (FFLs). This is because the grant eligibility requirements of the legislation ironically track existing requirements in federal law for so-called “NICS exempt” permits.
Generally, FFLs are required under current federal law to run background checks on non-licensed persons before transferring a firearm to them. This requirement does not apply, however, if the transferee has presented to the FFL a permit that “allows such other person to possess or acquire a firearm,” and “was issued not more than 5 years earlier by the State in which the transfer is to take place” and “the law of the State provides that such a permit is to be issued only after an authorized government official has verified that the information available to such official does not indicate that possession of a firearm by such other person would be in violation of law.” Thus, states that adopt a handgun license in accordance with the bill’s standards could also thereby create a mechanism for residents to buy both handguns and long guns from dealers without having to go through a background check each time. While the NRA still opposes the bill, it’s amusing how little understanding its authors have of the subject matter on which they are trying to legislate.
As we have said before, whether or not this bill gains traction in this particular Congress, it clearly signals the extreme views and agenda of the gun control movement. If the bill were passed, criminals wouldn’t obtain a license to buy a gun from a dealer. They would simply obtain their guns the same ways they always have: by theft, straw purchases, from criminal associates or family members, or on the black market. Meanwhile, honest, peaceable Americans would have more impediments to exercising their rights. Unlike some consequences of the bill, however, its authors would no doubt consider the latter outcome a benefit of the legislation, not a bug.
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