The Second Amendment

Summary

The second amendment to the Constitution and part of what is commonly known as the "Bill of Rights" guarantees the American people the right to keep and bear arms. Since 1990, three significant pieces of legislation have been enacted dealing with the second amendment. These laws are:

  • the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
  • the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
  • the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

The "Brady Bill" established a background check for anyone seeking to purchase a firearm, and prevented the sale of firearms to anyone who was a felon or fit into a number of other categories. This legislation was the result of the attack on President Reagan's life. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was the Act that established a ban on "Assault Weapons" which lasted from 1994 to 2004. The Protection in Lawful Commerce Act ensures that gun manufacturers are not sued because someone committed a crime with a legally manufactured and sold weapon.

There have been two major supreme court decisions involving the second amendment in recent years. In DC vs Heller, the supreme court ruled that the DC gun ban was unconstitutional. In Chicago vs McDonald, the court ruled that the restrictions on gun ownership were not legal. Many representatives made statement on these cases and some filed briefs in support the decisions.

 

Legislation

Important Legislation relating to the Second Amendment
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act Official Summary Bill Text
Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms Act Official Summary Bill Text
National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 Official Summary Bill Text

 

The Second Amendment

The second amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to keep and bear firearms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act

In November of 1993, President Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law. The legislation required a national instant criminal background check system for firearm licensees to contact for information on whether receipt of a firearm by a prospective transferee would violate Federal or State law. It made it illegal for any firearms dealer to sell firearms to a person who:

  • is under indictment for, or has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
  • is a fugitive from justice
  • is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance 
  • has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution
  • is an illegal alien 
  • has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions
  • having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced his citizenship
  • is subject to a court order that restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child
  • has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence

The law required that the purchaser of the firearm sign a statement affirming that he/she did not fall under any of these restrictions. If the seller has not received a reply from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) after the passage of 5 business days as defined by the state of residence, then the seller is free to proceed with the transaction.

 

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 is best known for it's ban on assault weapons, which included a ban on high capacity magazines for those weapons. This ban had a sunset provision which meant that the law lasted for 10 years and expired in 2004, making it once again legal to own an assault rifle. Specifically, the legislation barred the manufacture of 19 specific semi-automatic firearms as well as any semi-automatic rifle, pistol, or shotgun that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and which has two or more of the following features: A telescoping or folding stock, a pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher, and a bayonet lug. The legislation defines an assault weapon as follows:

The term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ means—

  • ‘‘(A) any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as—
    • ‘‘(i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);
    • ‘‘(ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;
    • ‘‘(iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC–70);
    • ‘‘(iv) Colt AR–15;
    • ‘‘(v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC; H. R. 3355—203
    • ‘‘(vi) SWD M–10, M–11, M–11/9, and M–12;
    • ‘‘(vii) Steyr AUG;
    • ‘‘(viii) INTRATEC TEC–9, TEC–DC9 and TEC–22; and
    • ‘‘(ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;
  • ‘‘(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 ofrnrn
    • ‘‘(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
    • ‘‘(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
    • ‘‘(iii) a bayonet mount;
    • ‘‘(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor;
    • ‘‘(v) a grenade launcher;
  • ‘‘(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 ofrnrn
    • ‘‘(i) an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip;
    • ‘‘(ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
    • ‘‘(iii) a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned;
    • ‘‘(iv) a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and
    • ‘‘(v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and
  • ‘‘(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of—rnrn
    • ‘‘(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
    • ‘‘(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
    • ‘‘(iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds and
    • ‘‘(iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine.’’.

In stating that it was illegal to transfer or possess a high capacity magazine, the legislation defined a high capacity magazine as anything that is capable of holding more than 10 rounds.

The term ‘large capacity ammunition feeding device’—

‘‘(A) means a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device manufactured after the date of enactment of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition; but 

‘‘(B) does not include an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.’’.

The final version of the legislation passed both the House and the Senate in August of 1994. The legislation received support from most of the Democrats and some of the Republicans.

 

 

Gun Free School Zone Act

In 1997, Congress passed the Gun Free School Zone Act as part of an omnibus spending package. This same spending bill contained the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. The legislation contained a number of findings related to the danger of firearms. It then makes it illegal to possess a firearm on a school ground.

Sec. 657. Section 922(q) of title 18, United States Code, is amended
to read as follows:
``(q)

(1) The Congress finds and declares that--

``(A) crime, particularly crime involving drugs and guns, is a pervasive, nationwide problem;

``(B) crime at the local level is exacerbated by the interstate movement of drugs, guns, and criminal gangs;

``(C) firearms and ammunition move easily in interstate commerce and have been found in increasing numbers in and around schools, as documented in numerous hearings in both the Committee on the Judiciary the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate;

``(D) in fact, even before the sale of a firearm, the gun, its component parts, ammunition, and the raw materials from which they are made have considerably moved in interstate commerce;

``(E) while criminals freely move from State to State, ordinary citizens and foreign visitors may fear to travel to or through certain parts of the country due to concern about violent crime and gun violence, and parents may decline to send their children to school for the same reason;

``(F) the occurrence of violent crime in school zones has resulted in a decline in the quality of education in our country;

``(G) this decline in the quality of education has an adverse impact on interstate commerce and the foreign commerce of the United States;

``(H) States, localities, and school systems find it almost impossible to handle gun-related crime by themselves--even States, localities, and school systems that have made strong efforts to prevent, detect, and punish gun-related crime find their efforts unavailing due in part to the failure or inability of other States or localities to take strong measures; and `(I) the Congress has the power, under the interstate commerce clause and other provisions of the Constitution, to enact measures to ensure the integrity and safety of the Nation's schools by enactment of this subsection.

``(2)

(A) It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
``(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm--

  • ``(i) on private property not part of school grounds;
  • ``(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;
  • ``(iii) that is--rn
    • ``(I) not loaded; and
    • ``(II) in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle;
    • ``(iv) by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone;
    • ``(v) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual;
    • ``(vi) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity; or
    • ``(vii) that is unloaded and is possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting, if the entry on school premises is authorized by school authorities.

``(3)

(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), it shall be unlawful for any person, knowingly or with reckless disregard for the safety of another, to discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the person knows is a school zone.
``(B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the discharge of a firearm--

  • ``(i) on private property not part of school grounds;
  • ``(ii) as part of a program approved by a school in the school zone, by an individual who is participating in the program;
  • ``(iii) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in a school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual; or``(iv) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity.

``(4) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as preempting or preventing a State or local government from enacting a statute establishing gun free school zones as provided in this subsection.''.

 

Domestic Violence Offendors Gun Ban

In 1997, the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban was passed as an amendment to the Omnibus spending legislation for that year. That same spending bill contained the Gun Free School Zone. The act bans shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or who are under a restraining (protection) order for domestic abuse in all 50 states. The act also makes it unlawful to knowingly sell or give a firearm or ammunition to such persons.

 

Text of Legislation

SEC. 658. GUN BAN FOR INDIVIDUALS CONVICTED OF A MISDEMEANOR CRIME OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

(a) Definition.--Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(33)(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the term `misdemeanor crime of domestic violence' means an offense that--
``(i) is a misdemeanor under Federal or State law; and
``(ii) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.

``(B)(i) A person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter, unless--

``(I) the person was represented by counsel in the case, or knowingly and intelligently waived the right to counsel in the case; and

(II) in the case of a prosecution for an offense described in this paragraph for which a person was entitled to a jury trial in the jurisdiction in which the case was tried, either (aa) the case was tried by a jury, or

(bb) the person knowingly and intelligently waived the right to have the case tried by a jury, by guilty plea or otherwise.

``(ii) A person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter if the conviction has been expunged or set aside, or is an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored (if the law of the applicable jurisdiction provides for the loss of civil rights under such an offense) unless the pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly  provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.''.

(b) Prohibitions.--

(1) Section 922(d) of such title is amended--

(A) by striking ``or'' at the end of paragraph (7);

(B) by striking the period at the end of paragraph (8) and inserting ``; or''; and

(C) by inserting after paragraph (8) the following:

``(9) has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.''.

(2) Section 922(g) of such title is amended--

(A) by striking ``or'' at the end of paragrph (7);

(B) by striking the comma at the end of paragraph (8) and inserting ``; or''; and

(C) by inserting after paragraph (8) the following:``(9) who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,''.

(3) Section 922(s)(3)(B)(i) of such title is amended by inserting ``, and has not been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence'' before this semicolon.

(c) Government Entities Not Excepted.--Section 925(a)(1) of such title is amended by inserting ``sections 922(d)(9) and 922(g)(9) and'' after ``except for''.

 

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

In 2005 Congress passed and President Bush signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This legislation protects the gun manufacturer from being sued after someone who legally purchased a firearm uses it in a crime. The legislation does not protect the manufacturer from lawsuits when they sell a defective product, and it does not protect someone who sold the weapon illegally to someone who committed a crime.

Similar legislation failed in 2004 after an extension of the assault weapons ban was attached to the legislation. This time, a child safety lock provision was added to the legislation.

 

DC vs Heller

In 1975, the District of Columbia passed an ordinance which restricted residents from owning handguns, excluding those grandfathered in by registration prior to 1975 and those possessed by active and retired law enforcement officers. The law also required that all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock". In 2002, pro-second amendment groups selected six plaintiffs who lived in the DC area to file suit againt the District of Columbia claiming that the law violated their second amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Dick Heller was a licensed police officer and was one of the men selected to be a complaintant.

The district court dismissed the case. The court of appeals held that only Heller had standing to sue as he had filed for a handgun license and been denied. The appeals court found that handguns were in fact arms and that  the rule against handguns was in violation of the constitution. It also ruled that  the rules stating that rifles and shotguns must be dissassembled or bound was also unconstitutional. The dissenting opinion in the 2-1 appeals court ruling stated that the District of Columbia was not a state and was therefore the people within the district were not part of the militias of the state, and therefore not applicable to the second amendment.

When the Court of Appealls for the DC circuit refused to rehear the case, the Supreme Court was asked to take up the matter. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on November 20, 2007. The court rephrased the question to be decided as follows:

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

The Supreme Court held in a 5-4 ruling that the Second Amendment is an individual right intimately tied to the natural right of self-defense. The court stated that the "people" to whom the Second Amendment right is accorded are the same "people" who enjoy First and Fourth Amendment protection, and that the weapons they sought to use to defend themselves were in common use at the time. The court held that:

  • (1) the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. rnrn
    • (a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms
    • (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.
    • (c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment.
  • (2) Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose
  • (3) The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense.

The four judges that dissented noted that if the founders had wished the right to bear arms to be an individual right, then the prefix regarding the militia would not have been included, and that previous gun control laws were not ruled unconstitutional. The dissenting opinion states that the dissenting judges did not believe that the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons. Their four main argument points were:

  • the Founders would have made the individual right aspect of the Second Amendment express if that was what was intended;
  • that the "militia" preamble and exact phrase "to keep and bear arms" demands the conclusion that the Second Amendment touches on state militia service only;
  • that many lower courts' later "collective-right" reading of the Miller decision constitutes stare decisis, which may only be overturned at great peril;
  • that the Court has not considered gun-control laws unconstitutional

 

McDonald V Chicago

In 2010, the supreme court ruled against the constitutionality of regulations in Chicago which seemed to make legal ownership of a handgun almost impossible. The regulations:

  • Prohibit the registration of handguns, thus effecting a broad handgun ban
  • Require that guns be registered prior to their acquisition by Chicago residents, which is not always feasible
  • Mandate that guns be re-registered annually, with another payment of the fee
  • Render any gun permanently non-registrable if its registration lapses

 

New Border Reporting Rules

In late 2010, the ATF concluded Project Gunrunner, which was an attempt to stem the flow of weapons and deter violence within Mexico and along the border. One of the recommendations of that project was the requirement for the reporting of multiple sales of long rifles. In November of 2010 the Obama administration initiated a 180 day temporary need for collection of information. This temporary policy required increased documentation when a buyer purchased more two or more rifles within any five consecutive business days with the following characteristics: (a) Semi automatic; (b) a caliber greater than .22; and (c) the ability to accept a detachable magazine. In March of 2011, President Obama wrote an op-ed discussing his views that the reporting system established under the Brady Bill should be modernized. The temporary reporting rules for multiple purchases of long rifles were made permanent in July of 2011 for the border states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

 

Project Gunrunner

In November of 2010, the Justice Department concluded Project Gunrunner. This initiative was a four pronged approach aimed at curtailing violence in Mexico and the US along the border between the two states. The initiative consisted of the expansion of gun tracing in Mexico, international coordination, domestic activities, and intelligence.

The final report on the project labeled it as poorly implemented and noted a 15 suggestions to improve the ability to interdict weapons and drugs passing through the US-Mexico border. One of those suggestions was to work with the Department of Justice to explore options for seeking a requirement for reporting multiple sales of long guns.

 

Initial Call for Collection

On December 17, 2010 the Federal Registry recorded changes to reporting rules to temporarily require the reporting of certain purchases of certain weapons. The form that was required to be filled out if the buyer met these conditions can be found here.

Overview of This Information Collection

(1) Type of Information Collection: Revision of a Currently Approved Collection.

(2) Title of the Form/Collection: Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War.

(3) Agency form number, if any, and the applicable component of the Department of Justice sponsoring the collection: Form Number: ATF F 6, Part II (5330.3B). Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

(4) Affected public who will be asked or required to respond, as well as a brief abstract: Primary: Individuals or households. Other: Business or other for-profit, Federal Government, State, Local, or Tribal Government. Abstract: The information collection is needed to determine whether firearms, ammunition and implements of war are eligible for importation into the United States. The information is used to secure authorization to import such articles. The form is used by persons who are members of the United States Armed Forces.

(5) An estimate of the total number of respondents and the amount of time estimated for an average respondent to respond: There will be an estimated 9,000 respondents, who will complete the form within approximately 30 minutes.

(6) An estimate of the total burden (in hours) associated with the collection: There are an estimated 4,500 total burden hours associated with this collection.

If additional information is required contact: Lynn Murray, Department Clearance Officer, United States Department of Justice, Policy and Planning Staff, Justice Management Division, Two Constitution Square, Room 2E–502, 145 N Street, NE., Washington, DC 20530. Dated: December 14, 2010. 

Lynn Murray, Department Clearance Officer, PRA, United States Department of Justice. [FR Doc. 2010–31755 Filed 12–16–10; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4810–FY–P DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

[OMB Number 1140–NEW] Agency Information Collection Activities: Proposed Collection; Comments Requested ACTION: 60-Day Emergency Notice of Information Collection Under Review: Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Certain Rifles.

The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, will submit the following information collection request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and clearance in accordance with emergency review procedures of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. OMB approval has been requested by January 5, 2011. This notice requests comments from the public and affected agencies concerning the proposed information collection. If granted, the emergency approval is only valid for 180 days. Comments should be directed to OMB, Office of Information and Regulation Affairs, Attention: Department of Justice Desk Officer (202) 395–6466, Washington, DC 20503.

During the first 60 days of this same review period, a regular review of this information collection is also being undertaken. All comments and suggestions, or questions regarding additional information, to include obtaining a copy of the proposed information collection instrument with instructions, should be directed to Barbara A. Terrell, Barbara.Terrell@atf.gov Firearms Industry Programs Branch, Fax (202) 648–9640, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE., Washington DC 20226. Written comments and suggestions from the public and affected agencies concerning the proposed collection of information. Your comments should address one or more of the following four points:

—Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;

—Evaluate the accuracy of the agencies estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;

—Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

—Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses.

Summary of Collection:

(1) Type of information collection: New.

(2) The title of the form/collection: Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Certain Rifles. 

(3) The agency form number, if any, and the applicable component of the department sponsoring the collection: Form Number: ATF F 3310.12. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

(4) Affected public who will be asked or required to respond, as well as a brief abstract: Primary: Business or For-Profit Other: None.

Need for Collection

The purpose of the information is to require Federal Firearms Licensees to report multiple sales or other dispositions whenever the licensee sells or otherwise disposes of two or more rifles within any five consecutive business days with the following characteristics: (a) Semi automatic; (b) a caliber greater than .22; and (c) the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

(5) An estimate of the total number of respondents and the amount of time estimated for an average respondent to respond/reply: It is estimated that 8,479 respondents will complete a 12 minute form.

(6) An estimate of the total public burden (in hours) associaed with the collection: The estimated total public burden associated with this information collection is 1,696 hours.

If additional information is required contact: Lynn Murray, Department Clearance Officer, Policy and Planning Staff, Justice Management Division, United States Department of Justice, 145 N Street, NE., Two Constitution Square, Room 2E–502, Washington, DC 20530. Dated: December 14, 2010.

 

Arizona Op-Ed

On March 13, 2011 President Obama wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star discussing the need for changes to the reporting systems used to record firearms purchases. He notes the incident in Tuscon where Congresswoman Giffords was attacked and a number of people were killed by a lone gunman.

It's been more than two months since the tragedy in Tucson stunned the nation. It was a moment when we came together as one people to mourn and to pray for those we lost. And in the attack's turbulent wake, Americans by and large rightly refrained from finger-pointing, assigning blame or playing politics with other people's pain.

But one clear and terrible fact remains. A man our Army rejected as unfit for service; a man one of our colleges deemed too unstable for studies; a man apparently bent on violence, was able to walk into a store and buy a gun.

He used it to murder six people and wound 13 others. And if not for the heroism of bystanders and a brilliant surgical team, it would have been far worse.

But since that day, we have lost perhaps another 2,000 members of our American family to gun violence. Thousands more have been wounded. We lose the same number of young people to guns every day and a half as we did at Columbine, and every four days as we did at Virginia Tech.

Every single day, America is robbed of more futures. It has awful consequences for our society. And as a society, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to put a stop to it.

Now, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. And the courts have settled that as the law of the land. In this country, we have a strong tradition of gun ownership that's handed from generation to generation. Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage. And, in fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners - it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

The fact is, almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible. They're our friends and neighbors. They buy their guns legally and use them safely, whether for hunting or target shooting, collection or protection. And that's something that gun-safety advocates need to accept. Likewise, advocates for gun owners should accept the awful reality that gun violence affects Americans everywhere, whether on the streets of Chicago or at a supermarket in Tucson.

I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country.

However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.

I'm willing to bet that responsible, law-abiding gun owners agree that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few - dangerous criminals and fugitives, for example - from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.

I'm willing to bet they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas - that we should check someone's criminal record before he can check out at a gun seller; that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to buy a gun so easily; that there's room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment.

That's why our focus right now should be on sound and effective steps that will actually keep those irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place.

  • First, we should begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is the filter that's supposed to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. Bipartisan legislation four years ago was supposed to strengthen this system, but it hasn't been properly implemented. It relies on data supplied by states - but that data is often incomplete and inadequate. We must do better.
  • Second, we should in fact reward the states that provide the best data - and therefore do the most to protect our citizens.
  • Third, we should make the system faster and nimbler. We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it.

Porous background checks are bad for police officers, for law-abiding citizens and for the sellers themselves. If we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else.

Clearly, there's more we can do to prevent gun violence. But I want this to at least be the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people.

I know some aren't interested in participating. Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody's guns. And such hyperbole will become the fodder for overheated fundraising letters.

But I have more faith in the American people than that. Most gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens. Most gun owners know that the word "commonsense" isn't a code word for "confiscation." And none of us should be willing to remain passive in the face of violence or resigned to watching helplessly as another rampage unfolds on television.

As long as those whose lives are shattered by gun violence don't get to look away and move on, neither can we.

We owe the victims of the tragedy in Tucson and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best efforts - to seek consensus, to prevent future bloodshed, to forge a nation worthy of our children's futures.

 

Permanent Policy

On July 11, 2011 the Justice Department released a press statement noting that it would be making these reporting requirements permanent for the border states of Texas, New Mexico, California, and Arizona. It cites the increased border violence in that region and the need to track weapons that may go into Mexico.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMonday, July 11, 2011
Statement of Deputy Attorney General James Cole Regarding Information Requests for Multiple Sales of Semi-Automatic Rifles with Detachable Magazines

WASHINGTON – Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued the following statement today regarding information requests for multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines in select states along the Southwest Border:

“The international expansion and increased violence of transnational criminal networks pose a significant threat to the United States. Federal, state and foreign law enforcement agencies have determined that certain types of semi-automatic rifles – greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine – are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border. This new reporting measure -- tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period -- will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations. These targeted information requests will occur in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to help confront the problem of illegal gun trafficking into Mexico and along the Southwest Border.”

 

National Reciprocity

In November of 2011, the House passed the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. The legisaltion had 245 co-sponsors and would have  amended the federal criminal code to authorize a person who is carrying a government-issued photographic identification document and a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm in one state, to carry a concealed handgun in another state in accordance with the restrictions of that state. This would not apply to someone who is prohibited from possessing, transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm under federal law.

 

Significant Votes

The votes taken on significant legislation will appear in each person's profile. Those voted are listed here for both the House and the Senate. 

House Votes on The Second Amendment
YearRoll CallLegislation
1993564Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act
1996455Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban
1996455Gun Free School Zone Act
1999244Gun Show Background Checks
2003124Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
2003122Amendment - Negligence
2003121Amendment - Third Party
2003120Amendment - Conviction of Transferor
2005534The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
2011852National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011
  

Senate Votes on The Second Amendment
YearRoll CallLegislation
1993394Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act
1996200Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban
1996200Gun Free School Zones Act
200430The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
200426Amendment - Cops carrying firearms
200425Amendment - Background Checks
200424Amendment - Assoult Weapons Ban
200417Amendment - Child Safety Devices
2005219The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
2007321Amendment - US aid and gun registration
2009279Amendment - Gun carry on Amtrak
2009145Amendment - Gun carry on Amtrak

 

Additional Legislation

Each year, there are numerous bills introduced that are not voted on in the House or Senate. These bills may be sponsored by numerous people and a representative's co-sponsorship of that legislation gives insight into that person's viewpoints.

Senate Bills on The Second Amendment
SessionBill NumberCo-SponsorsBill Title
112S 3210Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act
112S 3512Gun Show Background Check Act of 2011
112S 3410Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011
111S 81614Preservation of the Second Amendment in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges Act
111S 37123Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009
111S 84315Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009
111S 37123Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009
111S 326518Second Amendment Enforcement Act
111S 84315Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009
111S 81614Preservation of the Second Amendment in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges Act
111S 39428Collectible Firearms Protection Act
110S 100147District of Columbia Personal Protection Act
110S 261924Protecting Americans from Violent Crime Act of 2008
110S 257714Gun Show Background Check Act of 2008
110S 133110Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007
110S 133110Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007
110S 13164Firearms by Foreign Convicts Clarification Act of 2007
109S 39761Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
109S 108241District of Columbia Personal Protection Act
109S 327525Concealed Carry Reciprocity
109S 62010Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2005
109S 259930Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006
107S 226846Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
107S 6199Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2001
106S 239010Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000
106S 7839James Guelff Body Armor Act of 2000
104S 161220Increased Mandatory Minimums
 

House Bills on The Second Amendment
SessionBill NumberCo-SponsorsBill Title
112H R 12622Fairness in Firearm Testing Act
112H R 2270Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act of 2011
112H R 30887Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act
112H R 6159Collectible Firearms Protection Act
112H R 12622Fairness in Firearm Testing Act
112HR 8220National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011
111H R 168460Preservation of the Second Amendment in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges Act
111H R 5162160Second Amendment Enforcement Act
111H R 555287Firearms Excise Tax Improvement Act of 2010
111H R 168460Preservation of the Second Amendment in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges Act
110H R 1399249District of Columbia Personal Protection Act
110H R 4900224Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act of 2007
110H R 102268Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2007
110H R 669157Second Amendment Enforcement Act
110H R 564645Second Amendment Rights in National Parks
109H R 1288235District of Columbia Personal Protection Act
108H R 1036253Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

[1] Website: Fox News Article: ATF to Require Information on Frequent Gunbuyers in Border States Author: AP Accessed on: 07/13/2011

[2] Website: The Daily Beast Article: Obama’s Quiet Guns Crackdown Author: Daniel Stone, and John Solomon Accessed on: 07/13/2011