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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 11 – 15, 2022 (Tuesday, July 12, 2022, 9:00pm)

In the aftermath of the events that occurred in Highland Park, IL on Independence Day, the President has called for Congress to re-establish a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” In response to this request, it is expected that Democratic members of Congress will introduce some form of legislation calling for such a ban, most probably in the House of Representatives, in the near future. While it is unclear what traction such a proposal might have, especially in the U.S. Senate, members of the Club who have an opinion on this matter are encouraged to contact their Congressional representatives to politely and respectfully inform them of their position on this matter. Contact information for the S.C. Congressional Delegation is available through the yellow button in the upper left-hand corner of this post.

In other firearm related legislative news, it has been reported that the Senate is expected to vote this week to confirm the President’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach. The federal agency responsible for regulating firearms hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015. Again, members of the Club who have an opinion on this matter are encouraged to contact their Senators to politely and respectfully inform them of their position on this subject.

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LEGISLATIVE ROUND-UP: Federal Gun Control Bill Passes in the US Senate & House and is Signed into Law by President; New York Passes New Laws in Response to Supreme Court’s Invalidation of NYC’s Restrictive Licensing Regime (Friday, July 1, 2022, 9:00pm)

As expected, both chambers of the U.S. Congress have passed, and the President has signed into law, a comprehensive gun control law that creates monetary incentives for states to implement “red flag” laws and further expands the background check system for those seeking to purchase a firearm.

The law, entitled The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, authorizes $750 million to help states implement “red flag” laws to remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, as well as other violence prevention programs, and provides funding for a variety of programs to strengthen the availability of mental health support and to secure schools. It also enhances background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 by giving authorities up to 10 business days to review the juvenile and mental health records of younger gun purchasers, and makes it unlawful for someone to purchase a gun for someone who would fail a background check.

Another key provision is designed to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” so individuals in “serious dating relationships” who are convicted of domestic abuse will be prevented from purchasing a gun.

The signing of the gun safety bill comes just days after a major Supreme Court decision expanding gun rights by striking down a 100-year-old New York law that restricted the concealed carry of handguns in public to only those with a “proper cause.”

In response to this Supreme Court ruling, The New York State Assembly and the Governor of New York, having focused on the language of the Supreme Court’s decision which noted that the New York law afforded too much discretion to state officials in determining the “proper cause” necessary to grant a concealed carry handgun license, have passed a law that attempts to clarify the process and procedure by which they will restrict gun ownership within the state of New York. Specifically, the New York legislature has, by statute, created a concealed carry permitting process that adds specific eligibility requirements, including the taking and passing of firearm training courses for permit applicants, and enables the State to regulate and standardize training for license applicants. The legislation also identified sensitive locations where it is prohibited to carry a concealed weapon (including public transportation and Times Square) and establishes that private property owners must expressly allow a person to possess a firearm, rifle, or shotgun on their property. Individuals who carry concealed weapons in sensitive locations or in contravention of the authority of an owner of private property will face felony-level criminal penalties.

The law also gives the State of New York concurrent oversight, with the FBI, over background checks for firearms, the ability to run regular, on-going monthly checks on license holders for criminal convictions, and create a state-wide license and ammunition database, which will require any seller of ammunition or dealer of firearms in the state to make and maintain records relating to “every transaction involving ammunition” and include “the date, name, age, occupation and residence of any person from whom ammunition is received or to whom ammunition is delivered, and the amount, calibre [sic], manufacturer’s name and serial number, or if none, any other distinguishing number or identification mark on such ammunition”.

The law also expands the prohibition on the ownership of body armor to include vests designed to contain protective inserts under the definition of body armor, even if those vests do not actually contain the inserts that afford bulletproof protection, and creates requirements for the safe storage of firearms. The law is set to take effect on September 1, 2022. The law also creates an appeals board for those applicants whose license is denied, which will take effect on April 1, 2023.

The impact of this New York law will most probably have little, if any, effect on the laws of our state, but some of the provisions in the NY law may form the basis of future challenges and may result in further clarification by the courts as to the limits to which a state may regulate and oversee gun ownership within its jurisdiction. We will continue to monitor this situation and reports any developments.

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BREAKING NEWS: Gun Control Bill Advances in the US Senate (Wednesday, June 22, 2022, 11:00am)

On Tuesday evening (June 21, 2022), US Senators Chris Murphy, a Democrat and John Cornyn, a Republican, announced that a final agreement on the provisions of a bipartisan gun violence bill has been reached.

The 80 page Senate bill, titled the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” (S. ___ [bill # pending]), which advanced on a 64-34 vote, toughens background checks for gun buyers ages 18-21, giving the FBI up to ten days to review the mental-health and criminal records of younger gun buyers, will require more sellers to conduct background checks, and would provide money to the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take firearms from people adjudged dangerous.

The legislation as currently written also expands the background screening process to include a prohibition against non-married romantic partners convicted of domestic violence from passing background checks, and will beef up penalties on gun traffickers. It would also disburse money to states and communities aimed at improving school safety and mental health initiatives.

The legislation lacks the far more potent proposals that President Joe Biden supports and Democrats have pushed for years without success, such as: banning assault-type weapons or raising the minimum age for buying them; prohibiting high-capacity magazines, and; requiring background checks for virtually all gun sales.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he expects the bill to be brought to a vote and passed by the full Senate by the end of the week.

The text of the Senate bill can be found by clicking the following web link: https://www.murphy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/bipartisan_safer_communities_act_text.pdf

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BREAKING NEWS: US House of Representatives Approves Gun Control Bills (Monday, June 13, 2022, 2:00pm)

Last week, as expected, the U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive gun control legislation consisting of two (2) bills, H.R. 7910, titled the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” and H.R. 2377, titled the “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2021.”  These bills include provisions which would raise the age for acquiring semi-automatic rifles and shotguns nation-wide from 18 to 21 years of age, ban so-called “high capacity” magazines and fund “buyback” programs, create requirements to regulate the transfer of certain currently freely available firearm parts, create “safe storage” mandates, and create “red flag” rules at the federal level.

While these proposals appear onerous on their face, and passed the vote in the House easily, based on the current Democratic majority in that chamber and the votes of ten (10) Republican Congressmen who broke party ranks, it appears that the real fight over this legislation will occur in the U.S. Senate.

To this end, twenty (20) prominent Senators (10 Democrats and 10 Republicans) have been holding, since last month, a bipartisan conference to attempt to find “common ground” for proposed gun control legislation. The 20 Senators are:

  • Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
  • Roy Blunt of Missouri
  • Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Richard Burr of North Carolina
  • Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
  • Susan Collins of Maine
  • Chris Coons of Delaware
  • John Cornyn of Texas
  • Chris Murphy of Connecticut
  • Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
  • Martin Heinrich of New Mexico
  • Mark Kelly of Arizona
  • Angus King of Maine
  • Joe Manchin of West Virginia
  • Rob Portman of Ohio
  • Mitt Romney of Utah
  • Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
  • Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
  • Thom Tillis of North Carolina
  • Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

It has been reported that this past weekend the bipartisan Senate conference had reached an “agreement in principle” (i.e. without concrete details) regarding what could be included in a Senate version of a gun control bill that would garner enough support from the Republican side to ensure that such a bill would be “filibuster proof.”

It is being reported that, most importantly, the agreement in principle will not include the following:

  • NO ASSAULT-WEAPONS BAN
  • NO HIGHER AGE REQUIREMENT TO BUY SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLES: No agreement to include a provision to raise the age for buying a semiautomatic rifle to 21 from 18 years of age; it appears that this will remain under the purview of each state
  • NO EXPANSION OF THE FEDERAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM: No agreement to include proposals to expand federal background checks to buy a weapon, or to create or extend a waiting period
  • NO REPEAL OF LIABILITY SHIELD: No mention of amending or repealing a federal liability shield that protects gun manufacturers from being sued for actions by individuals using their products over which the manufacturer has no control

However, it is also being reported that the agreement in principle will include:

  • CRISIS INTERVENTION SUPPORT AT THE STATE LEVEL: The Federal Government will provide funding to the states to implement and administer “red flag” laws
  • ENHANCED REVIEW PROCESS FOR BUYERS UNDER 21: An “investigative period” to review the juvenile criminal and mental health records for gun buyers under 21 years of age, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement
  • PENALTIES FOR “STRAW PURCHASES”: Increase in criminal liability for criminals who illegally straw purchase and traffic guns
  • MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, TELEHEALTH INVESTMENTS: Expansion of community behavioral health center models and investments to increase mental health/suicide prevention, and funding for crisis/trauma intervention & recovery services, including services to be provided via telehealth
  • CLARIFICATION ON DEFINITION OF LICENSED DEALER: Provide clarification of the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer and strengthen laws aimed at criminals who illegally evade licensing requirements
  • PROTECTIONS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS: Include domestic violence restraining orders in the category of “crimes” subject to criminal background checks for gun purchases
  • SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH AND SUPPORT SERVICES FUNDING: Increase funding to expand mental health and supportive services in schools, including early identification and intervention programs
  • SCHOOL SAFETY RESOURCE FUNDING: Provide federal funding to programs that help primary and secondary schools create safety measures, support school violence prevention efforts and provide training to school personnel and students

Further information about advancement of actual legislation in the U.S. Senate will be shared as it becomes available.

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