The United States Capitol Building on a sunny day in Washington, D.C.
The United States Capitol Building on a sunny day in Washington, D.C. / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: A Look at the House Gun-Control Package That Just Passed [Member Exclusive]

The House passed a broad gun-control package on Wednesday, but what exactly does it do?

The full bill contains seven separate gun-control measures ranging from new age restrictions for firearm purchases to bans on certain ammunition magazines. The overall bill passed 223-204, though each measure received a vote of its own. Five Republicans joined the Democratic majority in supporting the complete package, while two Democrats broke with their party and voted against the bill.

Here’s a look at what passed, how the votes played out between the parties, and what Democrats left off the table in the largest federal gun control package advanced in years.

New Age Restrictions

Title one of the legislation includes a new prohibition on certain rifle and shotgun sales, including the popular AR-15, to individuals under the age of 21. The measure prohibits federal firearms licensees from selling “any semiautomatic centerfire rifle or semiautomatic centerfire shotgun that has, or has the capacity to accept, an ammunition feeding device with a capacity exceeding 5 rounds” to anyone under 21 who isn’t a “qualified individual.”

A “qualified individual” would be a member of the Armed Forces while on duty or any other government employee authorized to carry a firearm as part of their official duty.

This measure passed 228-199, with 10 Republicans voting yes and two Democrats voting no.

Gun Trafficking and Straw Purchases

Title two of the bill added rewrites current prohibitions against illicit gun trafficking and purchasing a firearm for third parties.

The bill specifies it shall be illegal for a person to acquire a firearm for a third party or to solicit another person to acquire a firearm on behalf of a third party, acts already illegal under federal law. It includes an exception for people buying guns for family members if they are a “bonafide gift” so long as the family member is not prohibited from owning guns or intending to use them in a crime. That’s something else already allowed under current federal law.

Violations of the law would be subject to a fine and/or up to 10 years in prison.

This measure passed 226-197, with seven Republicans voting yes. Jared Golden of Maine was the only Democrat to vote no.

“Ghost Guns”

Title three of the bill added a definition of ghost guns to federal firearms law, banned their possession and future sale, and clarified new methods of “manufacturing firearms” to encompass modern techniques such as 3D printing. The measure defines a ghost gun as “a firearm, including a frame or receiver, that lacks a unique serial number engraved or cast on the frame or receiver by a licensed manufacturer or importer.” It effectively outlaws the homebuilding of firearms.

Exceptions for sales and transfers of “ghost guns” would apply only to licensed manufacturers. Violations would carry a penalty of up to one year in jail, with subsequent violations carrying a sentence of up to five years.

This measure passed 226-194, with eight Republicans voting yes. Jared Golden of Maine was again the only Democrat to vote no.

Safe Storage Requirements

Title four of the bill will create a federal offense if a person keeps a firearm without a “using a secure gun storage or safety device” if they live with a person prohibited from owning firearms or with a minor. Violations of the act would carry a $500 fine and government confiscation of the improperly stored gun.

If a prohibited person or minor can access an improperly stored firearm and proceed to kill or injure someone, the penalty increases to up to five years in prison.

The bill also contains multiple grant programs from the federal government to incentivize states and Indian tribes to promote safe storage practices.

This measure passed 220-205, with three Republicans voting yes and two Democrats voting no.

Bump Stock Ban

Title five of the bill adds a federal prohibition on manufacturing, selling, or possessing bump stocks even though the Department of Justice banned the devices through rulemaking under the Trump Administration.

The bill’s language defines bump stocks as any manual, power-driven, or electronic device, or any part or combination of parts, that “eliminates the need for the operator of a semiautomatic weapon to make a separate movement for each individual function of the trigger and materially increases the rate of fire of the semiautomatic weapon, or approximates the action or rate of fire of a machinegun.” That’s a definition that likely extends the ban well beyond just bumpstocks.

This provision passed 233-194 with unanimous Democratic support and 13 Republicans.

Ammunition Magazine Ban

Title Six of the bill would ban the sale of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 15 rounds, with limited exceptions for law enforcement and certain security personnel. The bill would mandate all future magazines manufactured that are capable of holding more than 15 rounds be serialized and include the date of manufacture.

Magazines already owned by Americans would be grandfathered in by the bill. However, the bill also establishes a grant program to help states “buy back” those magazines.

This provision passed 220-207, with four Republicans joining Democrats to support the measure. Four Democrats voted against it.

Background Check Report

Title Seven of the bill would require annual reports from the United States Attorney General to both chambers of Congress containing detailed demographic data on individuals who attempted to purchase a firearm but failed a background check for a given year.

This bill saw the most unanimity in support between the two parties. It passed 380-47, with 160 Republicans joining every Democrat in voting for its passage.

What It Means For Gun Policy

While the bill is remarkable for the scope of different gun policies it attempts to tackle at once, Democrats notably omitted one major policy. Despite hints from Democratic House leadership, the package didn’t include an assault weapons ban. It hasn’t been scheduled for a vote either.

That omission coincides with new polling suggesting public support for the policy is at its lowest level in a decade.

But even without a federal “assault weapons” ban, the bill represents the most substantive action taken on federal gun policy by either chamber of Congress in many years. But its fate is likely already sealed. With the Senate as closely divided as it is, there’s just no realistic shot of the gun-control package advancing any further.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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