Chuck Schumber's new gun bill would make felons of millions of Americans
Yesterday, S. 374, or the “Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013” as it has been inexplicably termed, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by ten votes to eight. If it were to become law, S. 374 would usher in what advocates refer to as a system of “universal background checks.” It would do a lot more, besides. As it stands in our ostensibly ghoulish status quo, a free American citizen may leave his guns with his unrelated roommate for more than seven days; he may lend a gun to a friend so that that friend is able to go shooting or hunting; he has more than 24 hours in which to report to the police if his guns are stolen; and he may even — shock, horror! — teach a friend to shoot on his own land. Most important, he may do all of these things without spending five years in prison in consequence. This, the Senate’s bill would change.
Until Senator Chuck Schumer crowbarred in his amendments at the eleventh hour, S. 374 was, as Kevin Drum characterized it, a pretty “meaningless law.” This pushed Drum to sigh that “post-Sandy Hook Washington DC . . . seems an awful lot like pre-Sandy Hook Washington DC.” Not now it doesn’t, for Chuck Schumer is on it. For good measure, Schumer added to his revisions a change in the transfer-fee details, telegraphing to watchful eyes the latitude that he would like to give to the state. The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, on which Schumer’s bill is based, would have set fees at a flat $15; the amended bill leaves the fee structure at the mercy of later regulations to be determined by the attorney general. Passing established rules through Congress, as Obamacare’s endless instances of “the secretary shall” demonstrated, is passé. Allowing the executive branch to make the rules on a whim? Much more convenient.
S. 374 represents a direct blow to Americans’ right to keep and bear arms without excessive government interference. The bill holds that any “transfer” of a firearm must be conducted via a middleman (in practice, a law-enforcement officer or the holder of a Federal Firearms License) and that a transferee is obliged to submit to a check under the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. There are good-faith arguments in favor of and against this provision. But Chuck Schumer has narrowed the definition of “transfer” so strictly as to make his proposition absurd. If, for example, a gun owner leaves his home for more than seven days — leaving his firearms with his roommate, or gay partner, or landlord — he’ll be committing a felony that carries a five-year prison term. And while married couples are exempted from falling afoul of that provision, the family exemptions apply only to recorded “gifts” and not to “temporary transfers.” In order to avoid making felons of millions of couples, the government would, at the very least, need to spell out clearly what constitutes “gifting” a gun within a family and what constitutes a “temporary transfer,” thus regulating an area that has hitherto largely been left alone. ...