Indeed, most look positively reasonable — at least if you only read the title.
Such is H.R. 882, the “Keeping Guns from High-Risk Individuals Act” introduced by Rep. Robin L. Kelly, (D-Illinois).
Introduced in early February, text of the bill was just released, and is hair-raising, particularly if one digs a bit deeper, than the simple language.
In short, Kelly’s bill is a huge expansion of the criteria used to prohibit persons from legally owning a firearm under federal law, which right now includes those convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, and those adjudicated as mentally ill.
H.R. 882 would amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to include anyone who:
… in the most recent 10-year period, has been convicted in any court (emphasis added) of a crime of violence (as defined in section 16);
“(11) has not attained 25 years of age, (emphasis added) and has been adjudicated by any court as having committed an offense that would have been a crime of violence (as defined in section 16) if committed by an adult;
“(12) in any period of 3 consecutive years in the most recent 10-year period, has been convicted in any court, on 2 separate occasions, of an offense that has, as an element, the possession or distribution of, or the intent to possess or distribute, alcohol or a controlled substance (as so defined); or
“(13) has been convicted in any court (emphasis added) of stalking.”
Now 18 U.S. Code section 16 is disturbingly vague, and simply defines a “crime of violence” as:
(a)an offense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, (emphasis added) or
(b)any other offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.
Clearly, no one could argue against keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals right?
Much will be dependent — should this pass — on how Section 16 is interpreted, and on the relevant case law, but as written if you got in a bar fight when you were 21, and were charged with simple battery (generally a misdemeanor) or even threatened violence (assault in many jurisdictions, also a misdemeanor) — or were a young idiot and did a little vandalism — you would suddenly be ineligible to own a firearm for the rest of your life.
Note too, this says “any court,” not just federal court.
Kelly’s legislation would create an entirely new class of federally-prohibited persons — those who have been “convicted of a crime of violence,” even if no violence actually took place.
Look, no one wants firearms in the hands of violent felons, but this bill doesn’t prevent that. Anyone convicted of a felony is already a prohibited person.
This expands the list of “prohibited persons” to include those convicted of misdemeanors, not just felonies.
It’s clear that the goal of Kelly’s legislation isn’t about reducing gun violence (not that any of these proposed bills are), it’s all about reducing the number of people who can legally own a firearm.