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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Misguided Gun Control

March 4, 2019
Weekly Columns

Motivated by the desire to reduce gun violence, House Democrats last week brought up two pieces of legislation to expand background checks required for purchase and transfer of firearms. While I share the goal of keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and preventing mass violence, the legislation falls short of providing actual solutions to do so.

Democrats are undoubtedly sincere and well-intentioned about combating gun violence, but the legislation they brought up and passed in the House is misguided. Sadly, the touted fixes included in the bills would not have prevented the devastating tragedies at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary or Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In those and several other high-profile mass shootings from the last 20 years, the perpetrators either acquired weapons illegally or they would not have been stopped from purchasing a weapon even if the bills were law.

For context, the two bills – H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 – seek only to complicate purchase or transfer of firearms. With a few limited exceptions, almost all purchases and transfers would be forced through a federal firearms licensee. It would also make the background check process longer, more onerous and undoubtedly more expensive for lawful gun owners.

To be clear, Republicans are not opposed to screening prospective gun owners. However, current federal law extensively covers many of the concerns raised by Democrats. In fact, there are already prohibitions in place to keep communities safe from gun violence while respecting and protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. For example, federal law already limits who can engage in transfer of firearms and prohibits transfer to individuals known or believed to be barred from possession. It is also illegal for someone to purchase a firearm on behalf of a person prohibited from possession. Moreover, there are also restrictions on purchase and transfer of guns across state lines and existing prohibitions for those without a firearms license.

Despite existing law, Republicans are not opposed to improvements which respect the constitutional exercise of the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, Democrats were uninterested in working with Republicans to consider and determine bipartisan solutions. When the legislation was marked up in the House Judiciary Committee, the presiding Democrats rushed the process and limited amendment consideration. As a result, solutions like the Mass Violence Prevention (MVP) Act of 2019 were ignored. In addition, relevant voices in the discussion were shamefully left out. In fact, Republican Whip Steve Scalise – an inspiring survivor of mass violence – was not allowed to testify and offer his viewpoint in the committee.

Of all the rights found in the U.S. Constitution, only one – the right to bear arms – is included to ensure that all other rights are upheld. Our founders knew that in order for our republic to respect the rights of our citizens, we could never leave them defenseless to despotism. As one of the founding principles of our nation, the right to bear arms must be fully upheld, and I remain committed to finding solutions for preventing mass violence while protecting the rights of responsible Oklahoma gun owners who safely use guns for hunting and protection. 

While there is certainly room for improvement and better enforcement of current law, House Democrats unfortunately proposed the wrong solutions and overlooked the right ones for preventing future acts of mass violence and keeping our communities safe.