Firearms dealers that engage in illegal sales practices would face stronger oversight from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and stiffer penalties under a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday.
U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Gwen Moore (D-WI) introduced the Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act on the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The lawmakers cited a study by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that found 5 percent of gun dealers supply 90 percent of guns used in crimes in calling for more oversight and stiffer penalties.
“The vast majority of gun dealers follow the law, but the few engaging in reckless and illegal behavior are a major factor in the gun violence epidemic gripping our nation,” Langevin said. “By specifically targeting bad actors that sell guns without background checks or falsify records, this bill will help stop guns from getting into the hands of criminals. It is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to ensure our laws are properly enforced to stem the tide of violence engulfing our communities.”
Under the bill, the ATF would have more authority to conduct inspections to ensure that gun dealers comply with federal law. Gun dealers that falsify gun sale records would face longer prison sentences, and those that fail to comply with ATF regulations could face additional civil sanctions.
“Tragedy after tragedy we are told that we don’t need any new gun laws, that we should just enforce the laws on the books,” Deutch said. “But in too many cases, we’ve seen that the laws on the books are practically unenforceable. The combination of stringent standards and depleted budgets put ATF inspectors in an impossible situation. Recent reports show that many gun dealers who illegally sell weapons to people who have proven that they are not responsible gun owners routinely get a free pass — even after repeated violations.”
The bill would also give the ATF more discretion when issuing gun licenses. ATF could also force gun dealers that are connected to 10 or more crimes to conduct physical inventories.
“We’ve seen time and time again what happens when guns land in the wrong hands,” Moore said. “This bill takes a critical step forward in preventing such tragedies by ensuring that gun dealers engaging in illegal and reckless behavior are punished under the full extent of the law. The time for Congress to act is long overdue. We must move quickly to pass this legislation to help keep our communities safe.”
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has announced plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.