House Dems Prepare For Votes On Sweeping Gun And Magazine Ban

House Democrats are planning on passing several more gun control bills in the coming weeks, beginning with an early return to Washington D.C. by the House Judiciary Committee in order to hear (and almost certainly approve) three separate gun control bills and plans for a separate vote on a fourth bill later in September.

Rep. Jerry Nadler made it clear that the intent is to pass the bills quickly and let the Democrat-controlled chamber rush the legislation over to the U.S. Senate in short order, where they would join a “universal background check” bill already passed by the House earlier this year.

On Sept. 4, the panel intends to approve measures to ban high-capacity magazines, to incentivize states to establish a process to prevent people deemed “a risk to themselves or others” from obtaining a firearm, and to prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from possessing guns.

We’ve already talked extensively about “Red Flag” laws here, and I’ll have a separate post this weekend about the bills dealing with bans on gun possession for those subjected to an order of protection and those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime. So let’s focus on the gun and magazine bans that’ll soon be up for discussion. The U.S. Senate resumes its session on September 9th, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the gun control debate will be “front and center” when lawmakers return. Democrats in the House say they’re also poised to pass an “assault weapons ban”, with the Judiciary Committee scheduling hearings on that bill later on September 25th.

“These should not be partisan issues, and it is my hope we can move forward on these matters with support on both sides of the aisle, including the president,” Nadler said in a statement.

In the full House, more than 200 members have signed on to the latest iteration of a so-called assault weapons ban, and it’s likely to receive quick passage as well. It will be interesting to see if Beto’s push for a ban and a “buyback” draws any interest from lawmakers, or if they’ll stick with the current language, which is a ban on the purchase and transfer of existing firearms but doesn’t prohibit the continued possession of any banned firearm.

The current language of the “assault weapons ban” also includes a ban on magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds, though again there is currently a grandfather provision. Will that also be debated? After all, we’ve seen states like New Jersey and California demand gun owners turn in the magazines they currently own (and we’ve also seen massive non-compliance with those demands).

If I were a Republican member of Congress, I wouldn’t try to water this bill down. There’s no way you can put enough lipstick on this pig to make it kissable. Instead, I’d use this as an opportunity to try and make Democrats vote “yes” or “no” on some of the most anti-gun amendments possible.

  • A registration system requiring existing gun owners to register their “assault weapons” with the federal government.
  • Remove the grandfather clause and institute a mandatory compensated confiscation program.
  • Make possession of one of these rifles or magazines the equivalent to a felon possessing a round of ammunition – punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.
  • Base the definition of an “assault weapon” on muzzle velocity, as the editors of the New York Post suggested.
  • Offer up the “Andrew Cuomo Amendment”, restricting magazine capacity to 7-rounds.

I would also offer up a bill to increase funding for the federal Bureau of Prisons. The current budget for the BoP is $7.1 billion, but given the massive non-compliance expected with the passage of any gun and magazine ban, we’re clearly going to need more prison space. According to the Federal Register, it cost an average of $36,299.25 to house an inmate in federal prison in 2017. Let’s go ahead and round up to $40,000 per year (the increase from FY2016 to FY2017 was about $1,500). If we have 10,000,000 Americans who own one of these banned firearms (I’m being extremely conservative here), and just 3% choose not to comply and are charged, arrested, and convicted, that’s 300,000 new federal inmates. And at $40,000 a year per inmate, that’s going to mean an increase in the Bureau of Prisons budget of $12-billion.

But we’re not done yet. We’re going to need to build new prisons to house all those new prisoners. Right now there are less than 30,000 individuals in the Bureau of Prisons system on weapons offenses, so we’re talking about about a tenfold increase. In fact, according to the Bureau of Prisons, there are around 177,000 federal inmates total, so we’re going to need to build a lot of new facilities. This would be a one-time expense, but it won’t be cheap. At $50,000 per bed for 300,000 beds, that’s another $15-billion in capital costs.

Again, this is assuming a 97% compliance rate with the gun and magazine ban, which I think is wildly optimistic. It would likely cost a lot more than an initial outlay of $28-billion dollars, but this is a conservative figure. So offer up that $28-billion dollar budget increase for the Bureau of Prisons and let anti-gun Democrats vote on whether or not they’re prepared to adopt the Beto Plan (sorry Swalwell, you shouldn’t have dropped out) of banning and “buying back” guns, and imprisoning those who don’t comply.

Again, there’s no way for Republicans to water down a bill that bans the most commonly sold rifles and magazines in the country to the point of acceptability on the part of gun owners. Instead, amend that sucker until the House has voted on everything the most ardent anti-gun advocate has ever wished for. Make them debate and acknowledge the hard truths about what enforcing a ban like this would mean for our budget and our society. Ask the supporters of criminal justice reform why they believe an “assault weapons ban” and a magazine ban wouldn’t be used to disproportionately imprison young men of color for non-violent, possessory offenses.  This proposed ban is an awful idea, so make the sponsors defend every last line of the legislation.

As for the bills dealing with gun bans for those subjected to an order of protection and those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, I’ll have a separate post over the weekend detailing both the legislation and a couple of prospective responses to the bills.