Iowa Senator Charles Grassley cast a committee vote in opposition to the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act today on Capitol Hill. The bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee along party lines and criminalizes all private firearms transfers, otherwise known as universal background checks. Grassley indicated in a statement today that the legislation was rushed and lacked bipartisanship.
"The first point I want to make goes to process. When this bill was first listed on the Committee agenda to be marked up, it was just a list of findings. It was not ready to be marked up. The language has changed. It is still not ready to be marked up. But we are marking it up anyway. We were told there was such widespread support for universal background checks that a bipartisan bill would be on its inevitable way to passage. Instead, three of the four senators involved in those discussions do not endorse this bill. The bill is somewhat similar to a bill Senator Schumer introduced in the previous Congress. So let’s start with the big picture problems," Grassley said. "And this bill would eliminate private sales. Talk about unintended consequences."
As has been pointed out by many pro-gun advocates already, Grassley reiterated that universal background checks cannot be enforced without universal gun registration and eventually gun confiscation.
"There is no way to enforce a requirement of universal background checks without implementing gun registration. I know Senator Schumer says that federal law prevents such a registry. But federal law can be changed by federal law. And this would-be federal law requires the federal licensed dealer to keep a registration record of the transfer," Grassley said. "Mass shootings would continue to occur despite universal background checks. Criminals will continue to steal guns and buy them illegally to circumvent the requirements. When that happens, we will be back here debating whether gun registration is needed. And when registration fails, then the next step is gun confiscation."
Grassley also objected to the lack of focus on mental health issues in the legislation and points out that although we've been hearing a whole lot about gun safety, this bill would eliminate gun safety courses.
"The bill greatly restricts the rights of law abiding citizens. The bill’s family exception applies to gifts only. It does not permit lending a gun to a family member. The bill does not permit a temporary transfer in the home," Grassley said. "So a gun owner cannot bring a new gun to a friend’s house and let him handle it briefly. If a gun owner and a friend return from the shooting range, then stop at the friend’s house, the friend can’t handle the owner’s gun to show him how better to clean it. An owner can transfer his gun to a friend at a licensed shooting range or while hunting. But if they go target shooting in a National Forest or on the friend’s farm, the owner can’t let the friend use his gun. On top of that, gun safety instruction will be rendered impossible in many situations by the bill. This training could occur at a target range. But many of these classes take place at schools, office buildings, sporting goods stores and other locations. Only at the end does the class go to a shooting range for live fire instruction. So gun safety instructors could not offer the classroom component of the course anywhere except a shooting range or at the instructor’s home."
UPDATE: A Committee vote on Dianne Feinstein's new gun control legislation banning modern sporting rifles will take place Thursday and is expected to pass.
As expected, the panel delayed voting on a plan by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to ban assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. The committee was expected to approve that measure Thursday. Feinstein was chairing a separate intelligence hearing.