Guest report and analysis by Will Ellis of Gun News Daily
The possibility of a dramatic change in many gun laws around the United States could take place in the very near future. That’s because legislation was introduced on July 31 by New York Republican congressman Chris Collins, which, if passed in Congress, would become law.
Known officially as H.R. 3576, the Second Amendment Guarantee Act (SAGA) reins in a state’s ability to supersede federal gun laws. In this case, it would prevent individual states from implementing stricter gun laws than those currently imposed by the federal government.
In the past decade, few changes have been made when it comes to federal legislation regarding gun laws currently in place. Instead much of the activity has taken place at the state level, with an estimated 200 new gun laws instituted across the country.
One of the chief reasons for that inactivity stemmed from the makeup of Congress, with Republicans in control of only the House of Representatives while Democrats held the Senate and the White House. Last November’s elections gave Republicans full control of both the executive and legislative branches of government.
Collins’ immediate focus when crafting this legislation was no doubt zeroed in on his home state, where the NY SAFE Act has been in place since January 2013.
Officially known as New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, the law was passed in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy one month earlier.
The SAFE Act immediately banned specific rifles and shotguns and expanded the scope of what constitutes an assault weapon. From that point, any gun that had a thumbhole stock, pistol grip or anything else that was deemed to be a military feature was relegated to being assigned to the sector of assault weapons. This ruled out many civilian-loved rifle models, like many of the popular AR-15s listed here.
Due to that designation, the gun either had to be registered or the elements noted above would have to be taken off. Both were seen by critics as an infringement on their constitutional rights.
A pair of New York State Assemblymen, Joe Errigo and Peter Lawrence, held a press conference the following day to express their support for the proposed legislation. The two politicians are sponsoring bills to repeal that law within New York itself. and took time to criticize the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, for signing it.
After the legislative proposal was announced, Cuomo took time to criticize it by saying it was a politically-based gambit by Collins. In addition, he indicated that a combination of special interests and gun lobbyists were enough to sway the 67-year-old congressman, who’s currently in his third term of representing New York’s 27th district.
Collins rejected such comments, stating that his main area of interest is to protect hunters and other sportsmen who are negatively affected by such laws. He also indicated that because a number of Democrats also enjoy such interests, they’ll help provide bipartisan support.
Still, if SAGA were to pass, the legality of it would be subsequently debated, with some New York politicians believing that it’s a violation of the 10th Amendment. That cites the fact that any power not given to the federal government in the Constitution is thereby given to states.
Other politicians believe that because the New York law is prominently mentioned within the legislation, that may cause legal roadblocks when a potential case reaches federal court. That’s because past edicts from the Supreme Court have decreed that all states must be dealt with in the same fashion.
The California Overreach
However, the scope of the new law also affects citizens in the other 49 states, with California also figuring prominently in this discussion. That’s chiefly because the state’s voters approved a new law last year: The Safety for All Act.
Among other things, it now requires purchasers of ammunition to undergo point-of-sale background checks and also bans residents from legally owning gun magazines of large capacity and assault weapons listed as military-grade.
In addition, that law now requires those convicted of crimes where firearms were prohibited to verify with the court system that their weapons had been surrendered. However, one aspect of the law would remain in place: handgun laws that local municipalities currently have in place.
Key States to Watch
Outside of California, Hawaii and Washington State are two of the few western states whose laws might be dramatically affected by passage of this proposed legislation. On the East Coast, states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, as well as Connecticut, would join New York in seeing their state laws pulled back in line with current federal laws.
Hawaii’s restrictive laws require that anyone purchasing a firearm in the state must undergo a background check that checks any convictions for felonies or violent crimes. Domestic violence is among those crimes listed among the latter group.
Taking Matters Into His Own Hands
Prior to the introduction of this legislation, Collins had indicated that in the wake of the June 14 shooting of Louisiana congressman Steve Scalise, he would be carrying a gun with him at all times. He noted that he’s held a handgun carry permit for more than three decades.
Collins also noted in a Washington op-ed on June 19 that only politicians in positions of leadership, like Majority Whip Scalise, are provided a security detail. That means that he and other politicians are more vulnerable to angry constituents and other individuals.
The belief of Collins is that not being able to interact with other citizens in the normal manner would undercut their effectiveness. He cited his father’s training when it comes to being responsible when it comes to any firearms.A
Potentially Cloudy Future
One of the problems that Collins may face in moving the legislation forward is the backlog of issues that Congress still needs to handle. The multiple attempts at crafting a new health care plan, coupled with tax reform and other concerns gives the bill an uncertain future, at least when it comes to the months ahead.
Another issue stems from the political reality of having to get a 60-vote majority in the Senate, something that’s difficult because of the nearly even makeup of that political body.
About the Author: Will Ellis is a retired ballistics contractor who worked for over 30 years as a Naval engineer, specializing in sonar technology and SWCC support. Past projects include the development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project, and development of Chaff countermeasures. Will now teaches at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a part time engineering professor. You can find more of Will’s work here at gunnewsdaily.com