As we reported last week, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) is seeking to revive failed and rejected gun control strategies of the past by implementing burdensome and unnecessary controls on sales of ammunition. H.R. 2283, the so-called Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2015, wouldn’t just ban online ammunition sales, it would generally ban private ammunition sales altogether. So while a widow, for example, could still sell her deceased husband’s guns to a neighbor if the bill were passed, she could not sell the neighbor any ammunition that might go with them. Even from a gun control perspective, this seems like odd public policy, but then we’ve never accused our opponents of being burdened by logic or consistency.
H.R. 2283 would mandate all sales of ammunition to unlicensed persons to occur in face-to-face transactions with FFLs. The FFLs would have to verify and record the identity of ammunition buyers in their records and report to federal authorities sales of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition to the same person during any five consecutive business days. Just how FFLs, particularly high-volume stores with multiple employees, are supposed to know if a given person bought ammo recently or how much is not clear.
These provisions certainly would make ammunition sales more burdensome and intrusive and encourage those who had unwanted ammunition to keep it on hand, but the bill has no discernable public safety rationale. What possible good could retail sales records of cartridges do for law enforcement officials? If a 9mm cartridge casing is found at a crime scene, are police supposed to manually inspect the records of all dealers and then query every purchaser of the same brand and caliber of ammunition?
As we have said many times before, most violent criminals do not obtain their firearms through licensed dealers, with the attendant record-keeping and background checks. They steal them, purchase them on the black market, obtain them (often illegally) from family or other associates, or get others to make illegal straw purchases for them. Should the bill pass, ammunition would still be easily available through these sources as well. To suggest that prohibited ammunition purchasers would end up in FFLs’ books, or that law enforcement officials would have the time and manpower to find them there if they did, is so far-fetched as to be laughable.
As for the reporting requirements, the only likely result would be a federal registry of sport shooters who spend lots of time at the range, ironically the very people who are most likely to be proficient and safe with their firearms. Even assuming those who sought ammunition for criminal purposes would buy it from licensed dealers who had to record the buyer’s identity, buyers could evade the reporting requirements simply by spacing out their purchases or buying from multiple dealers. In any case, ordinary street crime, like robbing a liquor store or sticking up someone for his wallet, does not take a high volume of ammunition. Being a law-abiding firearms enthusiast who trains or competes regularly to maintain proficiency, however, certainly does.
Another misnamed and ill-considered bill recently introduced in Congress is Rep. Lois Capps’ (D-Cal.) H.R. 2216, which she calls the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act. This bill would expand the types of low-level misdemeanor convictions that lead to permanent prohibitions on the possession of firearms. Such prohibitions would also apply retroactively to convictions that occurred before the bill was passed, creating untold thousands of unwitting federal firearms felons who would have no warning or reason to believe their decades-old convictions could suddenly extinguish their rights. Ironically, misdemeanor offenses like those covered by the bill often offer even less opportunity for restoration of firearms rights than more serious felony offenses. H.R. 2216 would additionally impose automatic firearm prohibitions for those subject to certain types of court orders issued without the accused’s participation in the proceeding.
The casualness with which Rep. Capps and the cosponsors of her bill would toss aside Second Amendment rights shows their utter disregard, not just for the right to keep and bear arms, but traditional notions of due process and fairness under the law.
Even if these bills do not succeed or gain traction in the current Congress, they clearly telegraph the ambitions of firearms prohibitionists to create a world in which owning and using firearms is as expensive and inconvenient as possible and in which the Second Amendment is a second class right. Make no mistake, whether any particular Congress favors them or not, gun control advocates are invested in the long game and will continue to press their agenda, hoping that one day history will finally turn in their favor. Thanks to billionaire megalomaniacs like Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, and now a growing number of Northwest tech titans, the antigun movement is better funded than at any time in America’s history. This in turn helps anti-gunners buy sway with gullible and uniformed voters through collaborators in media, entertainment, education, and the increasingly politicized realms of white collar professions such as law, medicine, and social science.
Your vigilance and action, however, can stop them. This is why you should always voice your disapproval of any federal gun control bill with your congressional representatives, whether it’s election season or not, and whether the bill seems likely to move in the current Congress or not.