A New Gun Law Reflects the
Worst Instincts of Both Parties
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act increases
the penalties for violating arbitrary firearm bans


By Jacob Sullum. July 20, 2022

Until last month, someone with a felony record who obtained a gun was committing a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Now he is committing two federal crimes, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Contrary to what you may have read or heard, the story of how that happened is not an inspiring example of bipartisan cooperation to protect public safety. It is a dispiriting illustration of how the worst instincts of both major parties combine to produce policies that are neither just nor sensible.

Republicans like to look tough on crime but tend to be leery of gun control. Democrats, by contrast, are enthusiastic about gun control but tend to be leery of draconian criminal penalties that contribute to mass incarceration and have a disproportionate racial impact.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent and passed the House by a vote of 230 to 190, offered something to both sides. Republicans got tougher sentences, Democrats got more gun control, and both got to pretend they were doing something to prevent mass shootings.

Among other things, the law expands background-check requirements for gun buyers younger than 21, widens the categories of people who are not allowed to buy firearms, and provides federal funding for states with "red flag" laws, which authorize court orders prohibiting gun possession by people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. Those provisions are unlikely to have a meaningful impact on mass shootings, but they will cancel the gun rights of adults based on juvenile records and subsidize state laws that suspend those rights without due process. .....

"Undeterred by such criticism, Republicans who claim to support the Second Amendment voted not only to continue punishing people for exercising the rights it guarantees but to increase the penalties they face. So did Democrats, despite their avowed concern about excessively severe sentences and racial disparities."


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