New "Gun Trafficking" Bill Could Cripple Legal Firearms Market

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

Democrat Illinois Representative Bobby Rush has sponsored a bill — already referred to the House Judiciary Committee — that would criminalize many previously acceptable practices. 

H.R. 30, which has 18 cosponsors [unlike the bills introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas)] is entitled “The Gun Trafficking Prohibition Act,” and would amend Chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code by adding a section, which would include such items as defining a straw purchase as “the receipt of any firearm by a person who does not own the firearm — “(A) by way of pledge or pawn as security for the payment or repayment of money; or “(B) on consignment.”

So purchasing a gun on consignment at your local gun store, or — while not named — on sites such as GunBroker could be defined as a straw purchase, which in turn could effectively kill the online firearms market, never mind that any state-to-state transfer must already occur between licensed FFLs, and necessarily requires a background check before the firearm can be picked up. Nor can you pawn the thing if you’re a little short of cash.

Firearms have always been something of an investment, rarely losing value and always easy to convert to cash if you must. This bill could very well end that longstanding practice.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has several concerns as well. Communications Director Mark Oliva said the general prohibition language against purchasing a firearm on “behalf of another” is particularly troubling:

The way it is drafted now says the bill would punish innocent conduct in the case of a lawful purchaser who is not prohibited when that person buys a firearm “on behalf of” another person who is also not prohibited.

In essence, the bill would make it illegal for an entity like a Boy Scouts or Future Farmers of America marksmanship programs to buy a rimfire .22 to use in a rifle marksmanship program or a rancher to buy a firearm for a ranch hand to use against predators.

Additionally, the bill slips in language essentially creating a federal Red Flag law:

“(ii) (I) includes a finding that such person represents a credible threat to the physical safety of such intimate partner or child;

It would also puts restrictions on just how many you can buy or sell as well.

“(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to—

“(1) ship, transport, transfer, cause to be transported, or otherwise dispose of 2 or more firearms to another person … if the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the use, carrying, or possession of a firearm by the transferee would be in violation of, or would result in a violation of, any Federal law punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding 1 year;

“(2) receive from another person 2 or more firearms … if the recipient knows or has reasonable cause to believe that such receipt would be in violation of, or would result in a violation of, any Federal law punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding 1 year.

Unless you’re already a co-conspirator, exactly how are you going to know if the “transferee’s” possession of a firearm “would result in a violation of” federal law?

Not only can this stuff lead to a prison term of up to 25 years — the previous prison terms for violations were “not more than 5 years”, but it now includes “forfeiture and fines.”

Ҥ 934. Forfeiture and fines

“(a) (1) Any person convicted of a violation of section 932 or 933 shall forfeit to the United States, irrespective of any provision of State law—

“(A) any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds the person obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of such violation; and

“(B) any of the person’s property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, such violation.

This mess also massively expands section 924, which lays out the penalty for selling a firearm to be used in a crime.

Section 924(h) currently reads “Whoever knowingly transfers a firearm, knowing that such firearm will be used to commit a crime of violence (as defined in subsection (c)(3)) or drug trafficking crime (as defined in subsection (c)(2)) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.”

H.R. 30, if passed, would replace the entire section, amending it to read:

(h) (1) Whoever knowingly receives or transfers a firearm or ammunition, or attempts or conspires to do so, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that such firearm or ammunition will be used to commit a crime of violence (as defined in subsection (c)(3)), a drug trafficking crime (as defined in subsection (c)(2)), or a crime under the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), or section 212(a)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(C)) shall be imprisoned not more than 25 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.

Oliva said NSSF’s legal team was also concerned about one section removes exceptions for gifts.

HR 30 removes three exceptions and only includes a gift to a recipient who provided no service or tangible thing of value to acquire the firearm, or winner of an organized raffle, contest, or auction. So, that would be a cause for concern particularly for someone who chooses to gift a firearm as gratuity to a hunting guide, a bonus to an employee – as would be the case when someone retires and they are given a firearm as a gift – or an honorarium.

This bill, were it to become law, would provide an easy way for the Biden administration to turn millions of ordinary, law-abiding gunowners into federal felons — which of course is the point.