On Wednesday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation in the wake of deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., Uvalde, Texas, Tulsa, Okla., and dozens more in the past two weeks. The Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 7901), introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and cosponsored by Pingree, raises the lawful age to purchase a semiautomatic centerfire rifle from 18 to 21 years old, closes the “ghost gun” loophole, outlaws bump stocks and high-capacity magazines for civilians, strengthens safe storage requirements, and cracks down on gun trafficking and straw purchases to get illegal guns off our streets.
“I applaud the House Republicans who joined us to pass this urgently needed gun safety bill. Gun violence has sadly been a prevalent part of American life for decades, and this year, we’re on pace to have our deadliest year on record. There have been more mass shootings in the U.S. than days so far in 2022. From schools and churches to public gatherings and grocery stores, innocent lives continue to be lost because of senseless gun violence. We can’t let this stand,” said Pingree.
“This week, I received a handwritten letter from an 8-year-old constituent of mine about the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children around her age were gunned down in their classroom. ‘Never let anything like this happen again,’ she pleaded in the letter. Her words broke my heart,” Pingree continued. “The commonsense gun violence prevention legislation passed in the House is an important start to ensuring our children don’t grow up in fear like this.”
The Protecting Our Kids Act is a comprehensive package of gun violence prevention proposals to stop the spread of gun-related crimes and help prevent future mass casualty shootings. The bill has seven titles, which all passed including several with bipartisan support.
Summary of the Seven Titles in the Bill:
Title I – The Raise the Age Act -- introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland)
- Title I raises the lawful age to purchase certain semi-automatic centerfire rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21 years old. Currently, someone has to be 21 years old to purchase a handgun, but they can purchase a semi-automatic centerfire rifle or shotgun at age 18.
Title II – The Prevent Gun Trafficking Act, introduced by Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.)
- Title II establishes new federal offenses for gun trafficking and for the use of “straw purchasers.”
- This title is designed to combat illegal gun purchases and transfers. Currently, every year, thousands of guns are diverted from legal to illegal markets. Guns also move easily from states with weak gun laws into states with strong gun laws, thereby undermining state-level gun safety laws and creating significant threats to public safety.
- Title II also establishes a new federal offense for the use of “straw purchasers” for guns. A “straw purchaser” is someone who purchases a gun for someone else, typically for someone who cannot pass a background check such as a convicted felon or a minor.
- Under current federal law, it is illegal to make false statements on certain gun purchase forms, but these forms are only required for some firearms purchases. By creating a new federal offense, Title II ensures that straw purchasing can be prosecuted as an independent offense rather than relying on prosecuting false statements to address straw purchasing.
Title III – The Untraceable Firearms Act, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)
- Ghost guns are firearms that lack serial numbers and are therefore untraceable. In recent years, the increased presence of ghost guns in our communities has made it harder for law enforcement to find and prosecute violent criminals.
- Ghost guns present a growing challenge. For example, from 2017 to 2019, the number of ghost guns recovered in Washington, D.C. increased by 3,700 percent.
- Title III closes the ghost gun loophole by amending the definition of “firearm” under federal law to include gun kits and partial receivers and by changing the definition of “manufacturing firearms” to include assembling firearms using 3D printing technology. By modifying these definitions, Title III ensures that ghost guns, including firearms manufactured or completed using 3D printing, are subject to existing federal firearm regulation, including:
- Requiring that anyone who participates in the production of frames or receivers has a manufacturing license.
- Requiring that the manufacturer serialize a partial receiver before it is transferred to another entity.
- Clarifying that purchasers must undergo a background check before acquiring a partial receiver.
- Prohibiting anyone other than a manufacturer or licensed importer from engraving a serial number on a firearm, so as to ensure that ATF is able to trace the firearm, kit, or receiver.
Title IV – Safe Storage
- The presence of unsecured firearms in the home increases the risk of unintentional and intentional shooting, particularly with minors in residence. Over 75 percent of firearms used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional firearm injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
- Below are brief descriptions of the three bills included in Title IV that together require and encourage the safe storage of firearms.
Ethan’s Law, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
- These provisions set federal standards for safe gun storage on residential premises and also give states incentives to create and implement safe gun storage laws.
The Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act, introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.)
- These provisions would impose a penalty of up to 5 years in prison if a child or a resident who is ineligible to possess a firearm accesses an unsecured firearm and causes injury or death.
The Kimberly Vaughan Firearm Safe Storage Act, introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)
- This section requires the Attorney General to establish best practices for the safe storage of firearms and requires most firearms to include a label that says, “Safe Storage Saves Lives” and directs people to a website with these best practices.
- This section also expands the existing requirement that federally licensed firearms dealers provide a secure gun storage or safety device with handgun sales to also require dealers to provide compatible secure storage or safety devices with the sale of shotguns and rifles.
- In addition, these provisions provide for the Assistant Attorney General to award Firearm Safe Storage Program grants to states and Indian tribes that apply for and meet the conditions for the grants.
Title V – The Closing the Bump Stock Loophole Act, introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.)
- A bump stock is a device that, when added to a semi-automatic firearm, allows the firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger.
- On October 1, 2017, a shooter used bump stock devices to shoot more than 1,000 bullets into a crowd in Los Vegas – killing 60 people and wounding 411, making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
- Under the National Firearms Act, it is already illegal for Americans to own fully automatic firearms and machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. However, due to a loophole in the law, bump stocks –devices attached to semi-automatic rifles that increase their rate of fire to that similar to machine guns –were unregulated, until a 2018 ATF rule added them to the definition of “machine gun.”
- Title V builds on the 2018 rule by defining bump stocks and listing them under the National Firearms Act so that they are regulated the same as machine guns.
Title VI – The Keep Americans Safe Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.)
- Title VI prohibits the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of a magazine that holds more than 15 rounds of ammunition, unless an individual falls under a particular exception.
- These high-capacity magazines are designed for shooting and killing en masse and have been the accessory of choice in some of the bloodiest mass shootings in America. For example, the Columbine High School shooting and the Virginia Tech shooting were perpetrated by shooters with high-capacity magazines.
- A grandfathering provision exempts possession of large capacity magazines lawfully possessed on or before the date of enactment, but sales and transfers of grandfathered magazines are prohibited.
- There are also exceptions for particular types of people and entities, including allowing possession or sale to qualified law enforcement officers for purposes of law enforcement (on- or off-duty), law enforcement agencies, licensees under Title I of the Atomic Energy Act, or to licensed manufacturers and importers for purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Attorney General.
- There is also an exception for possession by a person who is retired in good standing from service with a law enforcement agency if the magazine was sold or transferred to the person upon retirement or purchased for official use before retirement.
Title VII – Miscellaneous
- Title VII contains one provision. This provision provides that the Attorney General shall submit to the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee an annual report that contains demographic data of persons who were determined to be ineligible to purchase a firearm based on the background check performed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, including race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability, average annual income, and English language proficiency, if available.
Pingree is also a cosponsor of the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R. 2377), introduced by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), which would establish a “red flag” pathway in federal court for law enforcement and family members to temporarily remove access to firearms for people deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Last March, Pingree voted with the House to pass H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would expand the current federal background check to cover nearly all firearm sales, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, to close the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which enables some firearms to be transferred by licensed gun dealers before the required background checks have been completed. Learn more about Pingree’s efforts to prevent gun violence here.