By Joseph Lord
The House Judiciary Committee will meet in an emergency session to mark up a gun control bill that would impose heavy new federal restrictions and limits on firearms.
The push for the legislation comes in the wake of a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two adults dead.
House Judiciary Democrats announced the hearing in a May 31 Twitter post.
“On Thursday, June 2, at 10 AM EDT, @HouseJudiciary will markup H.R. 7910, the ‘Protecting Our Kids Act’ which consists of commonsense strategies that together will reduce the gun violence plaguing our nation,” the post read.
H.R. 7910 is a wide-reaching gun control package but is unlikely to pass the Senate.
The most important change the bill makes to federal law is to raise the minimum age at which some semiautomatic firearms can be purchased.
Specifically, the bill prohibits the sale of “any semiautomatic centerfire rifle or semi-automatic centerfire shotgun that has, or has the capacity to accept, an ammunition feeding device with a capacity exceeding 5 rounds, to any individual who the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe has not attained 21 years of age and is not a qualified individual.”
Currently, these types of firearms are available to people who are 18 or older with no criminal or mental health record barring them from possessing one.
The bill would make for some exceptions to the age limit, but only for government employees.
Further down, the bill defines “qualified individual” as “(A) a member of the Armed Forces on active duty; and (B) a full-time employee of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State who in the course of his or her official duties is authorized to carry a firearm.”
Citing “gun trafficking,” the bill would also prohibit the transfer of firearms intentionally bought for a third party.
However, there are again exceptions to this regulation: “This section shall not apply to any firearm, if the purchaser or person acquiring the firearm has no reason to believe that the recipient of the firearm will use or intends to use the firearm in a crime or is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under State or Federal law and the firearm … is purchased or acquired by any person, or that any person attempts to purchase or acquire, as a bona fide gift between family members.”
Transactions between licensed dealers are also exempted from the regulation.
The bill also turns its attention to so-called “ghost guns,” usually homemade or 3-D printed firearms that sometimes do not have a serial number. Federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have had these weapons in their sights for some time, but their authority is limited without a nod from the legislature.
H.R. 7910 defines a “ghost gun” as “a firearm, including a frame or receiver, that lacks a unique serial number engraved or cast on the frame or receiver by a licensed manufacturer or importer.”
Under the terms of the bill, those in possession of such weapons would have 30 months from the bill’s enactment to have their weapon properly engraved with a serial number. After those 30 months have elapsed, possession of these weapons will be considered unlawful.
However, critics of these kinds of regulations and prohibitions have said that they will do little to address legitimate problems.
In an email to The Epoch Times discussing the issue, Gun Owners of America (GOA)—a Second Amendment rights advocacy group—blasted efforts to outlaw unregistered homemade firearms.
“The ability to make one’s own firearm is protected by the Constitution—and has been legal on this continent going all the way back to Jamestown,” Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of GOA wrote. “The war against so-called ‘ghost guns’ is a fraud. There is no evidence that registering firearms—or stamping them with serial numbers—prevents crime. Consider that virtually every ‘crime gun’ already has a serial number.
“And while the anti-gun Left may try to demonize these firearms by referring to them as ‘ghost guns,’ the fact remains that thousands of honest gun owners today are making their own legal guns—and 99% of these guns will never be used in a crime.”
H.R. 7910 would also create “safe storage” laws, with a penalty of $500 for adults who fail to adequately secure their weapons in a home with minors.
The bill would, in addition, prohibit the possession of bump stocks, a weapon modification that can substantially increase the fire rate of a semiautomatic firearm.
Following the Las Vegas shooting in 2019, the DOJ issued a rule banning most Americans from possessing bump stocks, but this rule has continued to face legal challenges in court. Under H.R. 7910, this rule would be codified by the legislature, making it much harder to challenge in court.
In a May 31 Twitter thread, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) pushed for the passage of the bill.
“In the last 2 weeks, 31 people have been murdered and another 20 injured at the hands of two 18-year-olds legally armed with semiautomatic assault rifles,” Nadler wrote. “It is time for Congress to act. That is why I am introducing and leading the charge on the ‘Protecting Our Kids Act.’
“Our children, friends, and families should not face the threat of horrific violence simply because they are grocery shopping, attending religious service, or in an elementary school classroom.
“This commonsense omnibus gun bill will address many of the loopholes that have allowed these horrific attacks to occur, and I plan to get this to the floor for a vote as soon as possible.”
Ultimately, however, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, even if it squeezes through the House in a thin party-line vote.
Though Republicans have expressed some openness to legislation focused on addressing mental illness or increasing school security in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, such wide-reaching changes to the law are unlikely to win enough support to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.