Thursday night, Congress passed the first federal legislation addressing firearms since the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut. But while one might think the new laws would tighten federal restrictions aimed at preventing criminals from getting guns, the reality is the opposite: all of them are National Rifle Association (NRA) promoted laws that actually weaken federal firearm law.
Six gun provisions were passed as riders attached to the resolution funding the government through September on Thursday. While all six had been federal law since 2004, each was approved by Congress on a year-to-year basis only. Now, four of the provisions are permanent. According to National Public Radio‘s Tamara Keith, the NRA “is the driving force behind these provisions.” Here they are:
1) Limit enforcement tools against crooked dealers. One rider would prevent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents from shutting down gun stores due to “due to a lack of business activity,” arguably a sign of criminal sales.
2) Shield gun dealers who “lose” their guns. This legislation precludes any federal law that requires gun retailers to count their guns and submit the results as a mechanism of determining whether any weapons have been lost or stolen.
3) Interfere with ATF gun trace reports. The ATF is now mandated to include, in any reports concerning its tracing of guns back to crime, that trace data “cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.” Academic work on guns has used trace data to firmly establish that several firearm regulations effectively prevent the spread of guns to criminal.
4) Expand the class of protected guns. According to Roll Call‘s John Gramlich, the fourth permanent law would “place a broad definition of antique guns and ammunition that may be imported into the United States.”
The comprehensive package aimed at tightening gun laws, which would impose universal background checks and harsher penalties on gun traffickers, is facing a tough floor fight in the Senate as a consequence of disagreement over how to enforce the background check provision.