Politics Magazine

Toomey-Manchin Bill

Posted on the 17 April 2013 by Barrysblogging

Today, the Senate will be voting on the Toomey-Manchin Bill known as the Public Safety and Second Amendment Protection Act. Having followed the discussion in the press and among legislators as reported by the press, and read the statement opposing this act by the NRA; it has been difficult to decide what to write about this act and the Congress in Sessionprocess. The deciding factor was yesterday’s radio show hosted by Michael Smerconish on POTUS. Either he did not read the bill or if he did, he does not understand what it says. He is in good company. Several legislators and the NRA are opposing the bill because they fear it will increase the likelihood of a National Gun registry. I strongly oppose a National Gun Registry as it gives the government too much potential for future successful gun confiscation. (No one foresees this as an eventuality in the USA, but no population has seen this coming in their country, until the government turns on the population as has happen in many other countries in the past. It is the Second amendment that should protect us against this.)What does the Bill actually say?
“Nothing in this title, or any amendment made by this title shall be construed to- (1) expand in any way the enforcement authority or jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; or allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a Federal Firearms Registry.” And “Congress supports and reaffirms the existing prohibition on a national firearms registry.” On page 27 of the bill, it contains language amending Section 923 of Title 18 which strengthens the prohibition against establishing a Federal Firearms Registry.
So, to those who oppose this bill based upon the belief that it will engender a future National Firearms Registry, I suggest that they learn to read, or stop lying about what they have read.
This bill addresses several issues that have been discussed in the weeks since the terrible Sandy Hook massacre.These issues are, (1) a registry that includes listing of those who are not mentally stable and probably should not own firearms, (2) a look at firearms sales at Gun Shows that do not go through the FFL and background check that would occur had they been transferred at a gun store, (3) online gun sales that do not go through a background check.
(1)   The Bill defines mentally incompetent as those persons who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent by a court, or who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution in the past. It exempts those who have been so designated by the Veterans Administration or by the Military for being listed. It gives States and Indian Tribe Governing Authorities up to 4 years to comply with providing this information and provides grant funds to assist in complying. It also provides financial penalties for failing to comply. (See below for further comment on this definition).
(2)   At gun shows, vendors may be licensed dealers, or unlicensed persons who own and trade firearms. In addition, persons attending the show bring firearms that they are interesting in selling or trading. The bill now requires all gun transfers at gun shows go through a licensed dealer at the show, including a background check.GunShow Any transfer from unlicensed to unlicensed person at or outside a gun show without a background check being conducted is now legally prohibited by this bill. The exception to this is transfers of firearms among relatives no further distant than first cousins. It further suggests that it is not appropriate to transfer a firearm into the hands of someone who is not mentally competent to own and operate that firearm even if they are a family member.
(3)   Online gun sales now usually involve licensed dealers since the firearms have to be sent to the purchaser, and legally shipping a firearm requires that it be sent to as licensed person, who is then required to transfer the firearm to the purchaser after a background check. Unlicensed persons transferring firearms to another in the same State will be illegal unless the State in which the transfer takes place has laws that are generally equivalent to the provisions for background checks in the Bill.
Further provisions in this bill strengthen the penalties for “straw purchase” of a firearm (buying a gun for someone else who you know would not pass a background check and lying about this on the form that is filled out when a firearm is purchased).
In pages 33 and 34, the bill then prohibits all interstate transport of loaded firearms or ammunition in a motor vehicle, even by persons authorized to carry loaded firearms, if the loaded firearm is directly accessible to persons in the vehicle.
Finally, the last provision of the bill establishes a congressional bipartisan commission to assess the availability of firearms, the role of mental health issues on incidents of mass violence.
So if these are the provisions of the bill, where, if any, are there any REAL problems?

The definition of mental incompetence is a potential problem. How long is a person mentally incompetent once this is adjudicated in a court of law?  Is a person who is mentally incompetent off medication and sane and functional on medication to be prohibited from firearm ownership?  Are all mentally unstable persons who have been involved in mass violence in the past been mentally incompetent or is it the act itself that defines them as being mentally incompetent? It would seem that this definition of who should be listed in the data base needs some comment and input from health care professionals who understand these designations and illnesses better than legislators.
The section on interstate transport of loaded firearms should be revised. Law enforcement officers and persons who are licensed by states to carry concealed weapons should not be prohibited from carrying accessible loaded firearms in vehicles across state lines.
There are some questions regarding the enforcement of the prohibition against transfer of firearms between unlicensed persons other than family members in the same locale, and how unlicensed persons so acting can obtain a background check. If they can access the FBI database by phone, just as licensed person can, then it would be easier to comply with these provisions. This would also address the concerns of persons who live far from licensed dealers.

Lastly, responsible journalists and legislators need to spend some time researching what they are saying, and not just spouting off!!! Journalists who write about them need to hold their feet to the fire when they say stupid groundless things which means the press also (like television news media and the Washington Post) needs to read bills that are being proposed. We, the public need to read what is being proposed since we can no longer trust what legislators or the press tells us about what bills contain.
And the NRA needs to direct their paranoia at events like New York and Connecticut passing terribly restrictive gun laws, and they should stop opposing this bill which needs to be passed with some constructive changes. It may stop some more people WHO SHOULD NOT HAVE FIREARMS, from acting irrationally and killing innocent people.

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