A new measure would hold gun sellers criminally liable if they sell a firearm to someone who isn’t legally able to own one.
A new bill in Congress would hold gun dealers liable for selling firearms to people who are prohibited from owning them.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, has introduced the Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act. The act would hold gun dealers – both federally licensed ones and private sellers – responsible for selling guns to people who aren’t allowed to purchase them.
“As recent tragedies in Virginia and across the country have shown, the gun laws in our country have done little to stem senseless gun violence,” Kaine said, referring to the recent on-air shooting of two TV journalists in Virginia. “These numbing incidents in urban, rural and suburban communities are made worse by the lack of accountability in those instances where the tragedy might have been prevented.”
The bill requires gun dealers to take “reasonable steps” before selling a weapon but Kaine doesn’t outline what those measures would be. Currently, gun dealers can only be held liable for selling a firearm if they know or have reasonable cause to believe that a purchaser is prohibited from owning a weapon due to a criminal record, history of mental health issues, status as an undocumented immigrant or other disqualifying factors.
Currently, Kaine said gun sellers can just claim they did not know the recipient was prohibited from purchasing a gun and that makes it too easy for sellers and buyers.
“Why should someone be able to casually place an illegal firearm in the hands of a felon?” Kaine asked. “Ultimately, efforts to reduce gun violence must focus on multiple solutions. But this act is a step in the right direction.”
Gun rights organizations have blasted Kaine’s plan.
“The bill seems designed to do nothing so much as to scare people from transferring firearms to anybody with whom they are not very closely associated,” the NRA said in a written statement. “Hidden facts about long-term neighbors – a long ago commitment for an eating disorder, for example – could spell the difference between an innocent act and a federal felony. Importantly, the penalty would attach, whether or not the recipient of the firearm ever did anything harmful or illegal with it.”
Kaine’s bill comes after the Aug. 26 shootings of WDBJ journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward. The two were shot and killed by a troubled former coworker, Vester Lee Flanagan II. In that case, however, Flanagan passed a background check and purchased the gun legally.
Following his daughter’s death, Andy Parker has become an outspoken advocate for measures to end gun violence.
“The majority of Americans agree with common-sense reforms. But too many of Congress remain in the pocket of the gun lobby. That has got to change,” he said during a recent Washington, D.C. rally.