Here Are the Major Gun-Related Bills and Actions the Federal Government is Currently Considering

Congress and the ATF working through actions on gun-background checks, bump-fire stocks

AR-15 with ammunition / Getty Images
February 16, 2018

The federal government is currently considering four major gun-related actions dealing with the gun-background check system, bump-fire stocks, silencers, and gun-carry reciprocity, which have significant support.

Three pieces of legislation are currently pending in Congress, two in the Senate, and one in the House, that deal with fixing holes in the gun-background check system, gun-carry reciprocity, silencer law reform, and interstate travel with firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is also currently considering whether or not to reverse its 2010 classification of bump-fire stocks as firearms accessories, which are not subject to federal firearms regulations. There are many other pieces of legislation that have been introduced but have little to no chance of coming up for a vote in either house of Congress, let alone passing.

The Fix NICS Act, however, passed the House in December 2017 and enjoys wide bipartisan support. The bill is a direct response to the Texas church shooting in November 2017, where the shooter was able to buy guns despite being prohibited from doing so because the Air Force failed to share his criminal record with the FBI's background check system. It would institute a number of financial incentives for providing all of the disqualifying records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that each state or federal agency is already supposed to submit under current law and withhold bonus pay from political appointees at federal agencies that don't fully comply.

The bill has garnered support from both sides of the gun debate with the National Rifle Association and many gun control groups publicly supporting the effort. Though it has yet to be scheduled for a vote in the Senate, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) has publicly called for a vote "as soon as possible."

"This is one of those rare times when folks who are ardent believers in the Second Amendment, as am I, and those who are perhaps less inclined to be enthusiastic about the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, where we can come together and say, 'Well, let’s at least fix the current law,'" Cornyn said on the Senate floor in January. "Let’s make sure that if somebody’s disqualified from buying a firearm that this National Instant Criminal Background Check System actually works."

The Concealed Carry National Reciprocity Act of 2017 was included with the Fix NICS Act when it successfully passed the House last year. That bill would require states to honor each other's gun-carry permits. The bill is fiercely opposed by gun-control activists, but the NRA has said it is their top priority.

"Our number-one legislative priority remains right-to-carry reciprocity," Chris Cox, the head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon last year.

The ATF is in the process of reviewing its classification of bump-fire stocks. After initially issuing a statement in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, where bump-fire stocks were utilized, that explained the agency only interprets federal firearms law and cannot change it, the agency announced it would be examining the devices again.

"The Department of Justice has the duty to enforce our laws, protect our rights, and keep the American people safe," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a press release on Dec. 5, 2017. "Possessing firearm parts that are used exclusively in converting a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for certain limited circumstances. Today we begin the process of determining whether or not bump stocks are covered by this prohibition."

The NRA has called on the ATF to review and reclassify bump-fire stocks in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, though it has opposed legislative attempts to ban the devices due to concerns about overly broad language.

"In Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law," Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the NRA's top executives, said. "The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."

The ATF has yet to complete its review but has received more than 36,000 public comments on the matter, the majority of which are opposed to changing the regulation.

The SHARE Act passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources on Sept. 12, 2017. That bill would enact a number of new protections for gun owners and hunters as well as reform the laws surrounding the purchase and ownership of silencers. It would remove the registration requirements for the sound-reducing devices and eliminate the long waiting periods currently associated with their purchase but would leave in place the required background check. The bill would also add protections for gun owners traveling across state lines, increased access to public lands for hunting and fishing, protections for the importation of firearms or ammunition, and protections against reclassification of certain kinds of firearms or ammunition.

The SHARE Act is still pending in the House awaiting a full floor vote. While it has a good chance of passing the House should it come to a vote, like the Concealed Carry National Reciprocity Act, it is ultimately unlikely to obtain the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. Gun-rights activists, however, are still pushing for votes on both bills.

It remains unclear when the bills pending in Congress will get their next vote or when the ATF will announce its determination on bump-fire stocks.

Published under: 2nd Amendment , Guns