We’ve all heard President Biden’s calls for unity and reconciliation. Despite these calls, his numerous executive actions and the legislation voted on in the Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives since January tell the real story.
This week, Democrats continued their failure to deliver the compromise and unity that Americans expect of Congress. In addition to pushing through a liberal wish list disguised as COVID relief on a totally partisan basis, Speaker Pelosi put on the floor, and passed by the slimmest of margins, two gun control bills, the “Bipartisan Background Check Act” (H.R. 8) and the “Enhanced Background Check Act” (H.R. 1446). Taken together, these bills significantly weaken the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens without addressing the actual, real world, sources of gun crime. In Maryland, with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, the annual murder rates in Baltimore continue to hit all-time highs. Maryland proves that liberal “gun control” laws simply don’t work. The only question is how many of our rights are willing to be sacrificed in doubling down on this failed approach to gun crime.
H.R. 8 would federally criminalize practices like loaning a handgun to a relative, or friends sharing shotguns for hunting, without first conducting an FBI background check. Even more concerning, this legislation could result in the creation of a universal federal firearm owner registry. Some ask how? Others say it’s not in the bill. But, if nearly every firearm transfer, as required by H.R. 8, is processed by a Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer, there will be a paper record of every firearm transfer, even between friends. Current law requires FFL dealers to keep these records. What’s to stop this anti-gun Biden-Pelosi team from routinely collecting copies of these records and maintaining an up to date database on all firearm owners in America? In other words, if this bill becomes law, when they come for our guns, they’ll know where to find them.
H.R. 1446 would allow the government to allow a delay of a firearm transfer by a minimum of ten days by simply not replying to queries sent to the national background check database. The bill then requires a purchaser, who’s FFL dealer has not received a response from the database, to personally petition the federal government to respond. The government then has 10 days to respond to the petition before the transfer can be completed. Under existing federal law, a long gun in Maryland may be transferred after 3 days even without a response from the FBI.
Taken together, these two bills, should they become law, constitute an unacceptable impediment to law-abiding citizens’ ability to exercise their Constitutional rights. Imagine having to wait 20 days to find out if the government will give you their permission to loan your shotgun to a friend for a hunting trip, or imagine if your friend was worried about a series of break-ins in her neighborhood.
These bills both fail to address in any way gun crime in our cities. Baltimore is a perfect case study. It is already illegal under federal law to transfer a handgun from out of state, yet in Baltimore about 2/3 of crime is committed with an illegally obtained out-of-state handgun. In other words, criminals don’t follow the law. As the saying goes, when you outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have them. More background checks on law-abiding citizens will not solve this problem. Instead of virtue signaling legislation that criminalizes my constituents and fails to address the root causes of violence in our streets, Democrats should work with Republicans to tackle the issues of poverty and drug wars that push people to illegally acquire weapons and commit murder in the first place.
Many in Maryland’s First Congressional District cherish their right to keep and bear arms and they exercise it responsibly. I am privileged to stand up for them in defending these rights. New legislation incriminating law-abiding gun owners is an overreach that fails to stop criminals from threatening society. I understand the concerns held by some, but I urge those individuals to think critically and understand that these bills are not a real answer – rather, they are a political maneuver meant to satisfy a vocal minority. The real solution to gun crime is complex, requires serious thought and deliberation, and cannot be resolved by simply expanding background checks or even banning certain types of weapons based on appearance. It doesn’t work in Maryland, and it won’t work nationwide. Don’t be fooled, if Joe Biden and liberals in Congress actually cared about the thousands of people killed in our cities each year, they could easily get bipartisan interest and produce tangible legislative results. Instead they took the partisan path once again by attacking legal gun owners, and checking off a political promise.
Congressman Andy Harris, M.D. represents Maryland’s First Congressional District in the House of Representatives and serves on the Committee on Appropriations. He is a Navy veteran, former head of obstetric anesthesiology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and still practices part-time on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.