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Gun Control Legislation

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Publication Date: September 2008

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Topic: Social conditions (Safety and security)


Congress has continued to debate the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. While several dozen gun control-related proposals have been introduced in recent Congresses, only a handful of those bills received significant legislative action. The 109th Congress, for example, passed two bills with firearmsrelated provisions that were enacted into law. P.L. 109-72 prohibits certain types of lawsuits against firearm manufacturers and dealers to recover damages related to the criminal or unlawful use of their products by other persons, and P.L. 109-295 includes a provision that prohibits federal officials from seizing any firearm from private persons during a major disaster or emergency, if possession of that firearm was not already prohibited under federal or state law.

Nevertheless, the 110th Congress could possibly reconsider several gun control proposals that were considered as part of appropriations and crime legislation in the previous Congress. During the 109th Congress, the House amended the Children's Safety Act of 2005 (H.R. 3132) to prohibit the transfer or possession of a firearm to or by any person convicted of a sex offense against a minor. The House also amended Secure Access to Justice and Court Protection Act of 2005 (H.R. 1751) to authorize certain federal court judges and officials to carry firearms for personal protection. The Senate passed a different version of H.R. 1751 that included similar provisions, as well as provisions designed to clarify and expand the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (P.L. 108-277) -- a law that gives concealed carry privileges to qualified on-duty and retired law enforcement officers. None of those provisions were enacted into law, however.

In addition, the House Judiciary considered four gun-related bills: the ATFE Modernization and Reform Act of 2006 (H.R. 5092), the Firearms Corrections and Improvement Act (H.R. 5005), the Firearm Commerce Modernization Act (H.R. 1384), and the NICS Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R. 1415). H.R. 5092 was passed by the House. The 109th Congress, moreover, maintained a fee prohibition for Brady background checks and other funding limitations and conditions related to gun enforcement in the FY2006 DOJ appropriations (P.L. 109-108). Those limitations and conditions have been continued into FY2007 under continuing resolutions. They are often referred to as the "Tiahrt amendment," for their sponsor in the FY2004 appropriations cycle, Representative Todd Tiahrt. Issues addressed in those bills, as well as the Tiahrt funding limitations and conditions, could be reconsidered in the 110th Congress. Senator Charles Schumer, for example, has introduced a bill (S. 77) that would repeal portions of the Tiahrt amendment that limit the sharing of firearm trace data.

Other gun control-related issues that may reemerge in the 110th Congress include (1) retaining Brady background check records for approved transactions to enhance terrorist screening, (2) more strictly regulating certain long-range fifty caliber rifles, (3) further regulating certain firearms previously defined in statute as "assault weapons," and (4) requiring background checks for firearm transfers at gun shows. This report will updated to reflect legislative action.