The News Editorial: Be alert: Firearm licensing act introduced in U.S. House
February 25, 2021
They say ignorance is bliss or what you don’t know won’t hurt you but when it comes to legislation, whether at the state or federal level, nothing could be further from the truth.
We as citizens must arm ourselves with knowledge. We cannot depend on our legislators or Congressional delegates to tell us everything they are doing. We must be steadfast in checking out bills that are filed at the state and federal level.
Case in point, a House Resolution that I have not heard anything about, especially in Wyoming, is the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act introduced last month by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
The bill was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 4 but to date there has been no further action. The bill HR 127 is “to provide for the licensing of firearm and ammunition possession and the registration of firearms, and to prohibit the possession of certain ammunition.”
Rep. Lee introduced the bill in 2019, but that was with a Republican Senate and Republican presidency. Now, in 2021, with a 50-50 Senate but the Democratic party having the tie breaker and Democratic president what happens is anyone’s guess.
In the information about the bill at congress.gov it states that the constitutional authority for such legislation is Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, specifically Clause 18, known as the “Necessary and Proper Clause.”
According to constitution.congress.gov, “The Necessary and Proper Clause concludes Article I’s list of Congress’s enumerated powers with a general statement that Congress’s powers include not only those expressly listed, but also the authority to use all means necessary and proper for executing those express powers.”
The bill states, “The Attorney General, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, shall establish a system for licensing the possession of firearms or ammunition in the United States, and for the registration with the Bureau of each firearm present in the United States.”
On the surface you think well they sort of already have that each time you purchase a firearm.
But this registration as outlined in this legislation goes way too far, think beyond “big brother’.
The bill would require the Attorney General to come up with rules for registering make, model and serial number of each firearm. You are thinking OK that’s not TOO bad.
But, wait, just like all those infomercials – there’s more. The registration would also require the name of the owner of the firearm, the date it was purchased, where the firearm is or where it will be stored, what persons have permission to have the firearm loaned to them, and this specific database, including the above information would be made available to the public and all government and law enforcement agencies.
Now are you concerned? I am.
Again, just like the infomercials, there’s more to concern you.
This particular bill is named after a Pakistani exchange student killed in a 2018 Texas school shooting. Sheikh was one of eight students and two staff members killed that day. The shooter is in a mental health hospital deemed incompetent at this time to stand trial.
Back to the act. The bill requires that every firearm owner be licensed. You must be 21 or older, undergo a criminal background check, complete a training course (for us in Wyoming who most likely take hunters education this might not be so bad, but the course has to be certified by the Attorney General).
And the licensee must have an insurance policy – available from the government at a cost of … are you ready … $800.
And, yes, there is still more. A psychological evaluation is required. Sure they are trying to address the mental health issue that many have said has been needed to properly address the issues behind mass shootings, but attaching it to a federal registration and licensing act is not the way to address mental health issues in our country.
According to the act the psychological exam may include an evaluation of other members of the household where the individual obtaining the license resides and the licensed psychologist must interview the “spouse of the individual, any former spouses … and at least two other persons who are a member of the family.”
Special licenses are required for military-style firearms defined in part as a semiautomatic rifle and/or pistol with a detachable magazines and meets at least two of five additional criteria.
There are penalties attached including several thousand dollars in fines and/or imprisonment for violations.
Will the bill advance out of committee, through the House, through the Senate? We do not know but we do know that it falls on us to be watchful and wary.
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I would be remiss if I did not encourage our readers to also be vigilant in watching our State Legislature over the next month as the in-person session gets underway.
While it is true that many of the pieces of legislation that will be passed in March may not affect you directly, there are bills that can impact you.
While we will try to inform you on some of the bills, we encourage you to make note of bills that may impact you and contact your local legislators — Sen. Ed Cooper of Ten Sleep. Rep. Mike Greear of Worland and Rep. John Winter of Thermopolis.