Democrat lawmakers and Republican legislators clashed in a heated markup of a gun-control bill Thursday. House Judiciary Committee members discussed different aspects of the issue, including the constitutionality or measures proposed by Democrats.
Protecting Our Kids Act (or the bill) calls for an increase in the legal limit to buy firearms from 18 years to 21 years. It also restricts certain firearm transfers and ensures traceability. The bill also imposes requirements about gun storage at home. Republicans pointed out constitutional problems in the bill while Democrats claimed they were hiding behind an excuse.
“[W]e have heard the same tired arguments that somehow this is impossible because the Constitution forbids it. This is… false,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) charged. “The Supreme Court of the United States repeatedly stated that the Second Amendment was not absolute. That Congress and the states have the power – and I would argue the responsibility – of ensuring that appropriate restrictions are placed on both age and places you can bring firearms. Also, there must be limitations on the type of firearms that you can own.
“Don’t allow your Republican colleagues to hide behind the claim that, “Oh, we’d like to do something.” This is a serious problem. We offer our prayers and thoughts. Cicilline said, “But, you know that the Second Amendment prohibits them.” “This is false.”
However, Dan Bishop, R.N.C., stated that the bill had constitutional problems. He argued that it was true that the bill raises the age limit. Bishop cited Jones v. Bonta (Ninth Circuit) as an example of a California ban that prohibits the sale of semiautomatic center-fire weapons to anyone under 18 years old. The court ruled last month that the California ban was unconstitutional.
Bishop stated that the Bill of Rights covers self-defense rights at the core of the Second Amendment. He said that the Bill of Rights also covers “every other right”
Bishop claimed that home storage restrictions were prohibited by the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia, Heller. This Supreme Court case recognized the right to keep a gun at one’s house for self-defense.
Bishop stated, “But there is a willingness just to ram through the package and we don’t even have any patience for anyone who objects.” Republicans are complicit in the accusations and voices being raised. You won’t bully Americans into giving up their fundamental rights.
Cicilline countered by pointing out that Bishop’s argument against age limit changes was based upon the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but that he was relying solely on the Supreme Court’s position, that the Second Amendment was not absolute and that the higher court should prevail.
Later, in the hearing, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) pointed out a different problem with Democrats’ bill. This is the same problem as the Gun Free School Zone Act which prohibits the carrying of guns within close proximity to schools. In 1995, the Supreme Court had ruled that the law was beyond Congress’s power. An amendment later clarified that it could only be applied to guns that have moved into or had an effect on interstate commerce.
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Massie pointed out that, while certain provisions in the current bill contained that specification to ensure they fell within the Constitution’s Commerce Clause; others did not.