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National Govt & Politics
After Vegas, Congress quickly rolls into familiar political positions on guns
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After Vegas, Congress quickly rolls into familiar political positions on guns

After Vegas, Congress quickly rolls into familiar political positions on guns
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

After Vegas, Congress quickly rolls into familiar political positions on guns

As President Donald Trump visits Las Vegas on Wednesday in the wake of the mass shooting there which killed 59 people and resulted in injuries for over 500 others, the two political parties in Congress remain in their partisan corners over how to address gun violence in the United States, with few hints of compromise on the hot button issue.

"I think it's premature to be discussing legislative solutions," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, while some rank and file Republicans were a little more blunt about the demands of Democrats for action on gun control measures.

"Personally, I'm a little frustrated by their selective outrage," said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) of Democrats.

"Somehow, when there's another shooting, then it's always for gun control," Davidson added.

In recent years, Democrats have rallied around the theme of inaction by the GOP, unable to forge a majority in Congress on almost any gun restrictions.

"It really is getting to me," said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). "I'm sick and tired of not doing anything."

"It is a broken record," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), as he joined other Democrats in complaining that the Congress holds a moment of silence, and then doesn't consider any legislative action on guns.

"You hear people say this isn't the time to talk about how to stop this," said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA). "But the problem is it seems like there is never a time to talk about it."

There was some buzz about something that has been tried before - expanding background checks to cover even private gun sales - but it has not had 60 votes in the past, and nothing seems to have changed on that front.

As for current gun rights legislation, House Speaker Paul Ryan said there were no immediate plans to bring a sportsmen's bill to the floor for a vote, which includes a provision that would make it easier for people to buy gun silencers.

"That bill is not scheduled now, I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled," Ryan told reporters.

It was actually the second time that work on that measure had been delayed; the first time was back in mid-June, because of the gun attack on a baseball practice involving Republican lawmakers.

While the bill was produced by the Natural Resources Committee, and is named the "Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act," it covers more than that when it comes to firearms.

In terms of natural resources, there are provisions on fishing protection, Polar Bear trophies, Gray Wolves, management of Grand Canyon bison, hunting and fishing in national forests, and more. But a big chunk of the bill is also about guns.

Some of the details:

+ To the many people who have told this reporter that I am using the wrong term in "silencer," that is the word used in the bill by Republicans:

+ The bill would preempt any state law and not allow state taxes on the purchase of gun silencers. The plan also requires any federal records about the purchase or transfer of a silencer to be destroyed within one year of the transaction.

+ The bill would expand protections for people who transport firearms across state lines, giving them extra legal protection when they stop at a hotel, for food, gas, or other places during their trip.

+ The provisions also create a new item in federal law that if someone is charged with a crime for transportation a firearm illegally - but is not convicted - then, the bill would allow a judge to "grant damages and other such relief as a court deems appropriate, including a reasonable attorney's fee."

+ The bill would also allow people to bring a lawsuit against any government worker, state or political subdivision that claimed a person was wrongly carrying a weapon over state lines.

+ The bill guarantees the right to carry firearms on U.S. Army Corps lands. Back in 2009 - during the early months of the Obama Administration - the House and Senate (under Democratic control), overwhelmingly voted to allow people to legally carry firearms in national parks and national wildlife refuges. Supporters of that say that Congress should have also extended that right to lands government by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and this plan would change that, under the name of the "Recreational Lands Self-Defense Act."

+ The "Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act" also includes provisions dealing with armor piercing bullets, specifically prohibiting federal regulators from re-classifying any "popular rifle ammunition" in order to prevent its sale. That is done under the heading of the "Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act."

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

+ The bill also relaxes the rules on the import of foreign firearms or ammunition, making it easier in some cases to bring a weapon into the United States or any possession.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

+ The bill also would protect a certain class of weapons from being classified as "destructive devices," declaring that shotguns and large caliber rifles could be "recognized as suitable for lawful purposes," and for "sporting purposes."

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

Asked about possibly removing the silencer provision from the bill, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee - which approved this bill - made clear that was not an option.

"The suppressor part actually helps people, to remove it would not be helping anybody out; that would be silly," Bishop said, saying the decision on a floor vote is up to GOP leaders.

You can read more about the Sportsmen's bill here.

The bill was also referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which would normally be in charge of gun provisions in federal law, but that panel waived its jurisdiction.

 

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