(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The consensus among most analysts is that the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, are unlikely to change current gun laws—that, despite the bloodshed and the outrage, our statues aren’t up for radical reconsideration.
But that’s not necessarily accurate—in fact, our existing gun laws are poised to get much weaker. In the current Congress and the one before it, pro-gun legislators have proposed and passed a variety of truly shocking measures that would weaken what laws are currently on the books—and remember, President Obama is only willing to enforce “existing law,” whatever that might be.
Here are five of the most craven gun bills in the 111th and 112th Congresses:
More guns for veterans with mental issues. In October, the House passed HR 2349, the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2011. The bill, which is awaiting action in the Senate, contains a provision introduced by Representative Danny Rehberg of Montana that would forbid the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “from determining a beneficiary to be mentally incompetent for the purposes of gun control, unless such a determination were made by a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority based upon a finding that the beneficiary posed a danger to himself or others.” In other words, the VA would no longer be able to alert federal authorities that a veteran is mentally unfit to own guns, unless they are able to get a judge to certify it. Currently, professionals at the VA simply make the determination and pass it on to the FBI.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of May 1, 2011, there were 130,886 files in the national gun-check database’s mental-defective file, which had been referred to the FBI by the VA. This means that in the coming years, if Rehberg’s provision passes, tens of thousands of veterans whom the VA considers unsuitable to have weapons would be able to buy them.
More guns for suspected terrorists. There are many things that will disqualify you from buying a gun—if you’re a convicted felon, you won’t pass a background check. But if you’re on the federal government’s watch list of terror suspects, you will pass the background check just fine. In 2010, in fact, 247 people suspected of ties to terrorism passed background checks and purchased weapons.
Senator Frank Lautenberg has repeatedly tried to pass legislation that would make one’s presence on a terror list a disqualifier for buying guns, and has received support from the Bush and Obama Justice Departments. But pro-gun legislators have thwarted the bill every time.