As a gun owner myself, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. The overwhelming majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who use firearms for sporting purposes, as historical collector’s items, to go hunting with their children or friends and, if necessary, to protect themselves and their families.
The Second Amendment states that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes. Unfortunately, some lawmakers view the Second Amendment as an inferior amendment, subject to being restricted and curtailed whenever political winds blow. But, the bottom line is that the Founding Fathers included the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, because they understood the need to place restrictions on the federal government in order to protect Americans’ individual liberties.
Any time Congress discusses placing restrictions on an enumerated constitutional right, it is our responsibility to very carefully weigh the many competing interests, which is ultimately why I recently voted against H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, during its consideration in the House Judiciary Committee. This is a poorly drafted and ill-considered bill that would punish lawful gun owners without doing anything to prevent gun violence.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, H.R. 8 would implement a system of universal background checks that make the following actions illegal: Loaning a gun to your neighbor, donating a historic firearm to a museum, and gifting a gun to a relative.
Democrats in Congress have been campaigning on ending gun violence in America for years. I, along with my fellow Republicans, want to see a reduction in violent crime and gun violence, too – but H.R. 8 won’t accomplish that, especially in relation to mass shootings. In fact, none of the recent mass shootings in this country would have been prevented by this bill.
The State of California has some of the strictest firearm laws in the country, and their system of universal background checks has proven to be a failure. A recent study by the liberal-leaning Violence Prevent Research Program at the University of California – Davis and Johns Hopkins University found that the implementation of universal background checks has had no effect on the rates of homicide or suicide by firearm.
In order to actually combat gun violence, we must take a long, hard look at making improvements in our society, like repairing our mental health care system. Our country has been experiencing a mental health crisis for far too long, and it is past time we address it with meaningful change. We must also more effectively enforce the laws that are currently on the books before implementing new regulations that criminalize law-abiding gun owners.
To put it plainly, Congress should not be wasting valuable time on ineffective bills that would only serve to impede upon Americans’ constitutional rights. While I voted against H.R. 8, it ultimately passed the Judiciary Committee, and it will be considered for a vote by the full House in the coming weeks. I have and will continue to urge my colleagues to oppose this measure and get to work finding real solutions to gun violence. We must stop playing politics with legislation that will not benefit the American people.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.