Krouse, William J.
November 2011
Journal of Current Issues in Crime, Law & Law Enforcement;2011, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p217
Academic Journal
Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of Firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. The tragic shootings in Tucson, AZ, on January 8, 2011, in which six people were killed and 13 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, could prompt the 112th Congress to examine issues related to the shooter's mental illness and drug use and his use of large capacity ammunition feeding devices (LCAFDs) (see H.R. 308 and S. 32), as well as a proposal to ban firearms within the proximity of certain high-level federal officials (see H.R. 496). This report provides basic firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal firearms law, and a of legislative action in the 111th Congress and selected legislative action in the 110th Congress that involved issues revisited in the 111th Congress. The report concludes with a discussion of other salient issues that have generated significant congressional interest in the past, including the 1994-2004 LCAFD ban. During the 111th Congress, the gun control debate was colored by two key Supreme Court findings. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court found that the District of Columbia (DC) handgun ban violated an individual's right under the Second Amendment to lawfully possess a firearm in his home for self-defense. In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Court found that an individual right also applied to the states. The 111th Congress considered amendments to DC voting rights bills that would have further overturned DC gun laws (S. 160 and H.R. 157), effectively scuttling the House bill. In addition, pro-gun Members passed several other gun- related provisions that were included in enacted legislation. These provisions address * carrying firearms on public lands (P.L. 111-24), * transporting firearms in passenger luggage on Amtrak (P.L. 111-117), * widening law enforcement off-duty concealed carry privileges (P.L. 111-272), and * prohibiting data collection on gun ownership or higher premiums for gun owners who are beneficiaries of healthcare wellness programs (P.L. 111-148). The 111th Congress reconsidered or newly considered several other provisions that were not enacted. These issues could re-emerge in the 112th Congress. These provisions address * veterans adjudicated as mentally incompetent and loss of gun rights (S. 669 and H.R. 6132), * firearms possession in public housing (H.R. 3045 and H.R. 4868), * interstate reciprocity of concealed carry privileges (S. 1390 and S. 845), and * the treatment of firearms under bankruptcy proceedings (H.R. 5827/S. 3654). Other salient and recurring gun control issues that have generated past congressional interest include (1) screening firearms background check applicants against terrorist watch list; (2) reforming the regulation of federally licensed gun dealers; (3) requiring background checks for private firearms transfers at gun shows; (4) more-strictly regulating certain firearms previously defined in statute as "semiautomatic assault weapons"; and (5) banning or requiring the registration of certain long-range .50 caliber rifles, which are commonly referred to as "sniper" rifles.


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