CONGRESSIONAL YEAR IN REVIEW
Nearly 100 gun-related federal bills wither in committee as 2015 ends
There were at least 98 gun-related bills introduced into the 114th Congress in 2015, but few meaningful proposals made it out of committee as the Senate and House remained mired in contentious gridlock despite Republicans wielding significant majorities in both chambers.
By year’s end, it appeared the most serious federal regulatory challenges to gun owners’ rights could come directly from the Oval Office in the form of executive orders issued by President Barack Obama. Such a prospect surfaced on Oct. 5 when White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that doing so would be “a high priority” for Obama as he enters his last year in office.
On Nov. 12, Everytown for Gun Safety sham financier, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, delivered a 5-point wish list for potential executive orders that Obama “could adopt without input from Congress.” Obama met again with Bloomberg on Dec. 16 and appeared posed to impose gun control measures by fiat that would expand background checks and close the “gun show loophole” in early 2016.
To counter Obama’s potential executive orders, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) on Dec. 18 introduced S. 2434, the Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act, a six-page bill that would prohibit funding for any presidential order intended to implement gun control action by bypassing Congress.
Paul’s bill was “fast-tracked” onto the Senate Legislative Calendar and is expected to be considered when Senators return from recess in early 2016—ideally before Obama issues his rumored edicts.
BLUNTING ‘BACKDOOR GUN CONTROL’ PLOYS
There were at least two instances in 2015 where Congress blunted “backdoor gun control” ploys by the Obama Administration.
In June, the House derailed an attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to impose new limitations on who can buy or possess guns, new reporting requirements for gun dealers and new controls on certain types of firearms by inserting “riders” prohibiting it from doing so to an appropriations bill to fund the Department of Justice, which oversees the ATF.
In another “backdoor” tact, in July Obama instructed the Social Security Administration to report the names of beneficiaries who don’t have the “mental capacity to manage their own affairs” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The move could affect up to 4.2 million Americans whose monthly disability payments are handled by others.
On July 21, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) introduced HR 3126, a bill that makes it a privacy violation for the Social Security Administration to furnish the name of any individual to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System unless a federal court has determined the individual to be mentally defective. The bill was referred to House Ways & Means Committee. Nineteen of the bill’s 31 co-sponsors serve on the committee.
MENTAL HEALTH BILLS
There were at least four federal bills proposed in 2015 that address ways to restrict mentally ill people’s access to firearms.
The most promising is Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) S.2002, the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, which would “enhance the ability of local communities to identify and treat potentially dangerous, mentally-ill individuals.”
Cornyn and 11 cosponsors introduced the bill on August 5 and it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. A House version was introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and 13 cosponsors on Oct. 8.
Previously proposed background bills, Cornyn said, have been designed by the gun control lobby to “drive a political wedge” between common sense and reality, noting his proposal is aimed at helping people with mental health issues and to “hopefully pre-empt them from committing an act of violence.”
The bill drew immediate support from the National Rifle Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which advocates for mentally ill people, and groups representing police organizations, correctional workers and social workers.
Rather than support Cornyn’s bill — which actually has a chance of passing with Republicans holding a 53-45-2 advantage in the Senate and a 234-201 majority in the House — the same old anti-Second Amendment Democrats trotted out the same old failed bills crafted to do little more than create headlines.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Oct. 28 reintroduced S. 2213, the Background Check Completion Act, which would close the “default to proceed loophole” that allows gun sales to finalize after 72 hours if a background check is not complete.
The bill, which has failed in previous manifestations to get out of committee, was dispatched to wither in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bottom line is while Cornyn’s proposed Mental Health and Safe Communities Act includes some of the same so-called “gun show loophole” provisions as the proposed Background Check Completion Act does, unlike the Democrats’ proposal, it includes mental health requirements designed to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics rather than out of the hands of law-abiding sane people.
In November, Rep. Tim Murphy and 172 cosponsors introduced HR 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, would overhaul the system for treating mentally ill people. The bill, referred on Nov. 16 to the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, addresses two stark facts uncovered by decades of documentation and analysis: Since 1982, an estimated 58 percent of 72 mass shootings were by someone with mental illness and, of an average of 41,000 suicides a year, more than 90 percent have a mental illness.