While most of the coverage of the new semi-auto ban known as the GOSAFE Act has focused on the broad and sweeping language that would make the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles off-limits for future production and sale or the magazine ban written into the legislation, there are other big issues with the bill as well.
Eagle-eyed Bearing Arms reader Erik S. sent me an email pointing out that language within the GOSAFE Act gives the DOJ unprecedented power to determine what, if any, semi-automatic firearm can be brought to market by compelling designers to submit their designs to the Attorney General before they start production.
A licensed manufacturer may file with the Attorney General an application, under penalty of perjury, for approval for a semi-automatic firearm as not subject to the prohibition under section 922(v), which shall contain—
‘‘(A) a detailed description of the specifications and operation of the firearm;
‘‘(B) a physical sample of the firearm;
‘‘(C) any patent application for the firearm;
‘‘(D) marketing materials and plans;
‘‘(E) an explanation of why the firearm should not be subject to the prohibition under section 922(v);
‘‘(F) a description of any features that prevent modification of the firearm; and
‘‘(G) any other information the Attorney General shall require
So, before you can bring a gun to market you’re supposed to spend money on your marketing materials as well as at least one physical sample and “any other information” the AG wants you to provide. The GOSAFE Act gives the AG a whopping 240 days to decide whether to approve or deny any application, and each application will be subjected to a yet-to-be-determined fee that are “substantial enough to cover the necessary cost” of administrating the AG’s Big Brother program.
The money collected, along with all funds generated by NFA tax stamps, would then go to a newly-created “Firearm Safety Trust Fund” that would also be run by the Attorney General, giving the office broad discretion in using the funds so long as the AG says the money spent is helping to carry out the “requirements of the GOSAFE Act and the National Firearms Act.”
These would indeed be major changes to the status quo. Current law does not require ATF, DOJ, or the Attorney General to pre-approve designs. It’s not unusual for companies to submit products to the ATF’s Firearms Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) for a determination about how a particular product should be classified, but giving the Attorney General carte blanche to decide which firearms can be produced is an entirely different matter.
The fees and the “trust fund” are also new proposals, and it’s easy to see how it could be used as a slush fund for anti-gun administrations to engage in executive branch activism. Based on the text of the GOSAFE Act as introduced, it doesn’t look like the fund would be subject to the congressional appropriations process, so even if there were enough votes in the House or Senate to choke off funding, there’s not really a mechanism to do so.
I reached out to Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation to get his take on this portion of the GOSAFE Act, and in his response, he called these measures “entirely new” and one of the reasons why NSSF “will vigorously oppose the bill in its entirety.”
“We will not let bureaucrats with a political agenda decide what products the industry can design and manufacture to meet ever-changing consumer demand,” Keane told me, adding, “the People, not the government, chose which arms they wish to keep and possess.”
If the gun control groups and anti-2A politicians behind the GOSAFE Act get their way, that freedom of choice would be annihilated. Not only would it become illegal to continue producing or offering for sale the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles, but the Attorney General would have the sole authority of deciding what new models could be sold going forward. It’s no wonder anti-gunners are giddy over the GOSAFE Act’s introduction. They know exactly what it would mean to our Second Amendment rights going forward, and now it’s up to us to make sure our fellow gun owners do as well.