House Speaker Pelosi decided that what the country really needs is more gun control. She brought two bills directly to the floor, circumventing the committee hearing and markup process, and they both narrowly passed. The party line is that the bills are intended to “strengthen background checks” – but like most party propaganda, the buzzword leaves out the real details that pose a particular threat to SCI members.
H.R. 8, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on March 11 by a vote of 227-203, is a clear and present danger to our right to hunt. H.R. 8 would amend the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) to create a new prohibition on the “transfer” of a firearm between two unlicensed persons unless: (1) the transfer was processed by an FFL with the same formalities as a retail sale or (2) the transfer was of a type specifically exempted by the legislation.
HR 8 does not define “transfer,” but it is clear from the exemptions in the bill that the term generally applies to temporary changes in possession or custody that do not result in permanent transfer of title.
The purpose statement of the bill reads: “The purpose of this Act is to utilize the current background checks process in the United States to ensure individuals prohibited from gun purchase or possession are not able to obtain firearms.” Thus, the general rule of the bill presumptively applies any time a firearm changes hands between two people.
The bill is poorly written and as a result, its potential impact in practice is not especially clear. But when your team evaluates a legislative threat, we are duty bound to consider the worst-case scenarios. And in this case, this legislation likely prohibits checking a firearm with an airline and prohibits shipping a firearm through a common carrier.
The bottom line: it prohibits the ability of hunters to travel with their firearms to hunt. Violating the bill’s provisions carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $100,000. H.R. 8 is the most anti-hunting bill to pass the House in more than fifty years!
Let me repeat these cold, hard facts: Checking a firearm with an airline is a potential crime under H.R. 8. Shipping a firearm through a common carrier for use at a hunting destination is a potential crime under H.R. 8. And violating the provisions of H.R. 8 carry penalties of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of $100,000. Innocent mistakes are not an excuse under H.R. 8 – a person would not need to know they are violating the law to be prosecuted.
Prohibiting hunters from traveling with their firearms on a hunting trip, and from shipping their firearms to a hunting destination through a common carrier, simply eliminates Americans’ access to hunting opportunities both across the U.S. and around the world. H.R. 8 would put hunters into a state of permanent lockdown, denying their right to travel with their firearms to hunt.
Hunters should not be turned into criminals for simply trying to lawfully travel with their firearm that must be securely locked, unloaded, declared to an airline, scanned by TSA and transported in the cargo hold of an airplane — or trusted to a secure common carrier shipping company in adherence to copious regulations.
Now here’s the tricky part. H.R. 8 has been passed by the House and transmitted to the Senate. It is falling right into the middle of the larger debate Democrats have spurred over eliminating the legislative filibuster. It is already being cited as an example of why Republicans should not have the ability to block legislation, adding to the pressure that Democrats are concertedly building to strip the Senate of its unique rule.
Add to this the campaign of media grandstanding that Senate Democrats have already begun against our Second Amendment rights. On the day this column is written, longtime anti-gun agitator Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is presiding over a Senate judiciary hearing featuring a lengthy parade of gun control supporters, including a paid staffer from a gun control organization who brought an 18-page wish list of new gun restrictions.
Taken in sum, Senate Democrats are clearly positioning themselves to exploit any tragedies by speedily ramming through their pre-existing anti-gun agenda. And one of those tragedies occurred the day before the hearing, when a man attacked shoppers at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. The facts surrounding this attack are still unknown, but that hasn’t kept anti-gun politicians from rushing to exploit it. Your SCI Advocacy Team is deploying every available resource to block H.R. 8. There is no better grassroots army than SCI Members to respond to the danger of this bill and the threat it poses to our hunting tradition. Visit our Hunter Action Advocacy Center to join the ranks of hunters expressing opposition to H.R. 8, and to receive breaking news alerts about the bill’s status. Or simply text SCI to 73075 to have the updates come directly to your phone!–Ben Cassidy