Last week, Lindsey Graham introduced a bill co-sponsored by other Republicans to codify Heller and Bruen into federal law, but does it really do that?
The Respect For the Second Amendment Act has widespread support amongst Senate Republicans, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). These politicians and organizations claim the bill will take the Supreme Court’s decisions and turn them into federal law.
“I am very pleased that all Senate Judiciary Republicans are speaking with one voice when it comes to supporting the Second Amendment rights recognized by the Supreme Court in the Heller and Bruen decisions. Now more than ever, it is important that Congress recognize and support that the Second Amendment is an individual right and that the right to bear arms to defend oneself is an integral part of American society. With this bill, we are ensuring that the rights affirmed by the Supreme Court are part of the federal code – and preventing a future Supreme Court from reversing this decision. The Respect for the Second Amendment Act will memorialize the holdings in these landmark Supreme Court cases and provide further protection to the Second Amendment,” said Senator Graham.
While Senator Graham and others celebrate the introduction of a bill to codify Bruen, what these politicians are not telling you is that it replaces the “original text and history” test found in Bruen with a much more watered-down “historical tradition of firearms regulations.” SCOTUS gave us a starting point. That starting point is the ratification of the Second Amendment. It concentrated on the rights of the people. Congressional Republicans sidestepped that test totally. The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), a law I would like to see repealed, is a historical firearms regulation. It can and will be argued that this law encompasses the NFA.
Bruen knocked down New York’s Sullivan laws, which were in place for nearly 100 years. Those laws could be considered historical firearms regulations. For these reasons, some gun groups are withholding support for the bill. One of these groups is Gun Owners of America (GOA). Director of Federal Affairs for GOA, Aidan Johnston, told me that the gun rights organization does not support the bill because of the same concerns I have with it.
“The bill has a laudable goal, but in attempting to protect unconstitutional gun controls like background checks, commercial gun regulations, and ATF’ authority,’ the bill utterly undermines the Second Amendment test from Heller and Bruen,” Johnston told AmmoLand News. “GOA has always argued what the Supreme Court has codified: to examine a gun law’s constitutionality, you must use the text of the Second Amendment and the historical tradition from the founding era. The bill fails to mandate courts apply the text of the Second Amendment and appears to allow any gun control that has had any part in our nation’s historical tradition—like the National Firearms Act, which has infringed on gun rights for nearly 90 years.”
I will go further than GOA and argue this bill does nothing for gun rights and, in fact, hurts them. Bruen is the law of the land. This bill does not even come close to the test set up in the decision. This bill gives anti-gun politicians another data point to cite when arguing their law is Constitutional. It attempts to water down the brilliantly written opinion of the high court while claiming to be some groundbreaking gun rights bill.
This bill is smoke and mirrors to try to make up for the appeasement we saw in the passing of the Bi-Partisan Safer Communities Act. Like millions of other gun owners, I want to see a bill that actually advances gun rights. Removing short-barreled rifles (SBR) from the NFA would be a good start. The SHORT Act does just that, and it has already been introduced in Congress. Another good bill is the Hearing Protection Act (HPA), which would remove suppressors from the NFA. How about introducing and supporting a bill to repeal the NFA itself? Hell, we will even accept a concealed carry reciprocity bill.
But those bills would require guts to propose and bring to the floor for a vote. Instead, we get a watered-down bill to make us forget the biggest betrayal of gun owners in the past 30 years. I urge everyone to reach out to their Senators and demand an actual pro-gun bill instead of a fundraising PR move.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.