No matter where they buy it or who they buy it from, gun buyers will be required to undergo criminal background checks under the Obama administration-backed gun control bill just introduced in Congress. What else is in this controversial bill?
While he decided it will not include a new assault weapons ban, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S. 649), will encompass at least three of the legislative initiatives included in President Obama's gun violence prevention plan.
Universal Background Checks: Sen. Reid's gun control bill will include the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013 (S. 374), expanding the Brady Act to require background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including sales and transfers of title between private individuals, and sales at gun shows. Background checks would NOT be required in cases of: gifts between immediate family members; guns transferred from a deceased person's estate to an heir; transfer of possession between unlicensed persons in the transferor's home for less than seven days; and temporarily loaning a gun in connection with lawful hunting or sporting purposes at a shooting range, at a shooting competition, or while hunting, fishing, or trapping during hunting season.
"I want to be clear," said Sen. Reid in introducing his bill, "In order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks."
Stopping "Straw Man" Gun Sales: Also a part of Sen. Reid's bill is the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013 (S. 54). This measure would provide enhanced criminal penalties for so-called "straw man" gun sales or transfers, in which a legally qualified person - the straw man - buys guns for the purpose of selling or giving them to persons who would themselves be prohibited from legally purchasing guns. In other words, buying guns in order to sell or give them to criminals.
Preventing Gun Violence at Schools: Finally, the Senate's gun control bill will include the School Safety Enhancements Act of 2013 (S. 146). The measure would authorize Congress to provide funding for school security project grants. The grants, from the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services could be used by schools for the installation of surveillance equipment and the establishment of hotlines or tiplines for the reporting of potentially dangerous students and situations. Under the measure, the federal school security grants would provide up to 80% of the costs of project, with schools paying the other 20%.
But What About Assault Weapons? On March 19, Sen. Reid announced that his Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act would not include an assault weapons ban, because he feared that opposition to the ban might prevent the passage of any new gun control legislation. However, in his introductory remarks, Sen. Reid made it clear that he would allow an assault weapons ban and other provisions to be considered as amendments.
"The bill I advance tonight will serve as the basis for opening debate," Sen. Reid said. "Once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines, and mental health provisions receive votes, along with other amendments. In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for all of these provisions to receive votes, and I will ensure that they do."
A recent Gallup poll showed that while 91% of Americans - including 92% of Republicans - favored requiring universal gun buyer background checks, only 60% favored the enactment of an assault weapons ban.