Three Things That Make This Gun Bill Alarming
Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is sponsoring a new gun control bill introduced in The House on January 1, 2021, and there are three aspects of the proposal that should alarm people concerned about our civil liberties.
The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act, or H.R. 127, is named for Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student who was among eight students and two teachers killed in the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting attack.
Sabika’s death, like all deaths by random gun violence, was a tragedy. The teenager had been due to return home to Pakistan in just a few weeks, before the Muslim festival of Eid. Instead, her body was flown back to Pakistan.
We all want to be safe. Nothing is more horrific than a school shooting, and gun violence has been escalating at a terrifying rate. The bill calls for the Attorney General, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives, to establish a system for licensing the possession of firearms or ammunition for every gun in the country.
Americans are armed to the hilt, with a record 40 million guns bought in 2020 and another 4.1 million in January of this year. Sales surged in the wake of the pandemic and racial protests.
A new gun bill to instill some safeguards sounds reasonable. We long for something to stem the tide of violence, and most of us live in dread of another school shooting when schools fully reopen.
But there are three aspects of this bill that should raise red flags.
A Major Problem
The first problem is that H.R. 127 requires gun owners to tell the government where they store their guns, and this information will be readily available to a lot of people.
Registering a gun and being required to disclose where you keep it are two entirely different things.
Registration should be designed to see that guns don’t fall into the hands of violent criminals or people with a history of violence. Requiring information about where law-abiding citizens keep their property is overreach.
This is what the bill says:
“Required information: Under the firearm registration system, the owner of a firearm shall transmit to the Bureau the make, model, serial number of the firearm, the identity of the owner of the firearm, the date the firearm was acquired by the owner, and where the firearm is or will be stored….”
And this is who will have access to your information:
“The Attorney General shall establish and maintain a database of all firearms registered pursuant to this subjection. The Attorney General shall make the contents of the database accessible to all members of the public, all Federal, State, and local law enforcement authorities, all branches of the United States, Armed Forces, and all State and local governments, as defined by the Bureau.”
The second part of the bill is meant to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally and emotionally unfit to own one. A gun registration applicant would be required to undergo a psychological evaluation by a licensed psychologist.
This sounds reasonable too, until you discover that a psychologist would have the green light to interview your spouse or former spouse, along with at least two of your family members or associates. Then this doctor could “further determine the state of your mental, emotional, and relational stability in relation to firearms.”
What if you want a gun for protection, and your ex has a vendetta against you? Or what if your family members have a personal grudge? Because of what they say, you could be deprived of your rights.
Guns for the Rich, but not for the Poor
H.R. 127 also makes it prohibitively expensive for poor and middle class people to own a gun by mandating an $800 insurance fee.
Ron Davis was a victim of gun violence. His son, Jordan, was shot and killed at a gas station in an argument over loud music. But even Ron isn’t fully in favor of this bill. He objects to the $800 fee because a battered woman might not be able to afford $800.
The bill doesn’t clearly spell out whether the fee is a one-time thing or an annual expense, but some people interpret it as being a yearly insurance payment.
People who violate various sections of the bill would face steep penalties.
“Whoever knowingly violates section 922 (aa) shall be fined not less than $75,000 and not more than $150,000, imprisoned not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years, or both.”
What History Teaches Us
With a benign, freedom-loving government, our information might never be misused. Information about where we store our guns would be in good hands. But history has shown us not all governments are benign and freedom loving. There is always potential for corruption. We have seen enough corruption in our own government over the years to give us pause.
Americans want to curb gun violence. Our safety needs to be a priority. But assuming government will always have our best interests at heart and will diligently safeguard our freedoms is naïve.
Consider how gun registration has led to civilian disarmament and genocide in other countries.
In Lethal Laws, authors Aaron Zelman and Alan Mr. Rice argue that gun registration and ultimate confiscation preceded the persecution of people in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China, and Cuba.
During the twentieth century, more than 100 million people were killed by their own governments.
In an attempt to fight crime, Venezuela implemented a ban on the sale of firearms in 2012. According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory’s statistics, Venezuela’s murder rate increased from 73 murders per 100,000 people in 2012 to 91.8 murders per 100,000 people in 2016.
Today, disarmed Venezuelans are defenseless against a government that has eliminated their civil liberties and destroyed their economy.
Independent Institute Research Fellow and author Stephen P. Halbrook writes in his book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, about restriction on firearm ownership for Jews and “enemies of the state.”
A year before Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the German Interior Minister directed that gun registration records be made secure to keep them from falling into the hands of radicals.
Those records fell into the hands of the Nazi government, anyway.
Writing about Cuba, Miguel A. Faria Jr., doctor and author, says, “I can personally testify that when Cubans lost their guns in 1959 they also lost their ability to regain their freedom. Thus today, Cubans on the other side of the Florida Strait remain enslaved in what was supposed to have been the dream of a socialist utopia, the ultimate Caribbean Worker’s Paradise. What they ended up with was the nightmare of a police state in a communist island prison.”
Dr. Faria goes on to point out that registration is directed at law-abiding citizens, not criminals.
The Law Protects Criminals from Registration Requirements
“Not only do convicted criminals by definition fail to obey the law, but they are also constitutionally protected against any registration requirement. In Haynes v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968 ruled that requiring registration by those who unlawfully possess firearms amounts to a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s proscription against forced self-incrimination.”
I have highlighted some egregious parts of the bill, but there are others. Read the bill for yourself and decide if this is the sort of draconian government overreach we need to curb gun violence.
Some might believe that to ensure our safety, we need to risk our liberty. But loss of liberty has historically led to other, more tragic, losses.
I don’t shoot a gun, and I don’t want to shoot a gun. I worry about school shootings and escalating violence. But there has to be another way to solve the problem and make our country safe without violating our constitutional rights and relinquishing this much power to a government that might not always be on our side.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”