With Joe Biden, a strong advocate of strict gun control, in the White House, Democrats are hoping to enact radical gun control legislation that would eviscerate the Second Amendment. On January 4, 2021, the day after the swearing in of the new Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a bill (H.R. 127) entitled the “Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act.” Her bill is named after a Pakistani exchange student who was killed in a mass shooting at a Texas school in 2018. The bill would require the federal licensing of firearm and ammunition possession under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney General, establish a national firearm registry, and prohibit the possession of certain ammunition.
The centralized firearm registry is a giant step towards eventual gun confiscation from law-abiding Americans. The information that gun owners must provide to the federal government includes the make, model, and serial number of the firearm, the identity of the owner of the firearm, the date the firearm was acquired by the owner, and where the firearm is or will be stored. Sales, gifts, or even loans of one’s firearm or ammunition must be reported to the Attorney General. When government officials have the information to readily identify and locate owners’ firearms throughout the country, mandatory buy-backs and eventual confiscations become much easier to implement. Only law-abiding Americans will be impacted. Black markets for firearms used by criminals will proliferate.
The registration program is a direct assault on the privacy of law-abiding gun owners. There will be no encryption of their personal information turned over to the federal government. Far from it. The Attorney General will be empowered to establish a database of all registered firearms that will be accessible to the public, as well as to law enforcement and other government agencies.
The broad licensing provision is an egregious violation of personal liberties. The provision goes far beyond the minimum age requirement of 21 and a criminal background check to determine eligibility for a license. Even requiring the license applicant to successfully complete at least 24 hours of training, certified by the Attorney General, in the use, safety, and storage of firearms, is not the worst part of it. In order to get a license to possess a firearm or ammunition – i.e., to exercise one’s individual Second Amendment right “to keep and bear Arms” – one has to go through and pass “a psychological evaluation.” (Emphasis added).
The psychologist must be approved by the Attorney General and the evaluation must be conducted in compliance with standards established by the Attorney General. As part of the psychological evaluation, the psychologist must interview “any spouse of the individual, any former spouse of the individual, and at least 2 other persons who are a member of the family of, or an associate of, the individual to further determine the state of the mental, emotional, and relational stability of the individual in relation to firearms.” One can just imagine the insults a bitter former spouse or estranged family member would spout about that individual’s “mental, emotional, and relational stability.”
A person applying for a license to possess a firearm or ammunition will flunk the evaluation and be denied a license if that individual has ever been hospitalized “with a mental illness, disturbance, or diagnosis (including depression)” or the psychological evaluation indicates that the person has a “chronic mental illness or disturbance.” And to top it all off, if the individual makes it through the psychological evaluation, he or she must have a firearm insurance policy issued by the Attorney General for a fee of $800.
Violations of the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act are not treated like misdemeanors with a slap on the wrist. A violation can mean as much as 25 years in prison and a fine of as much as $150,000.
The Supreme Court held in District of Columbia, et al. v. Heller that the Second Amendment right is an individual constitutional right. The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act turns that Second Amendment right “to keep and bear Arms” into a privilege bestowed by the federal government. The Attorney General would have peremptory powers in deciding whether to grant or deny a license to law-abiding Americans, based on a psychological evaluation process that the Attorney General controls.
Proponents of extremist gun control legislation, such as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill, will no doubt point out that the late Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller case did not address the constitutionality of firearm licensing or registration requirements directly. Those forms of regulation were not at issue before the Supreme Court. The gun control fanatics will also note that Justice Scalia’s majority opinion did not preclude the constitutionality of reasonable regulation of firearm possession. Indeed, he wrote that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill…” But this digression from the main holding in Justice Scalia’s majority opinion does not mean that the government can ride roughshod over the due process rights of the American people. The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act does just that.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill imposes a psychological evaluation requirement as a condition for being allowed to possess a gun for self-defense. Law-abiding Americans who wish to own a gun would be subjected to a psychological evaluation conducted on terms dictated by the U.S. Attorney General by a psychologist approved by the Attorney General. The Attorney General has the power to deny a license to a person diagnosed as having “a chronic mental illness or disturbance.” Chronic mental illness is so broad a term that it could include a diagnosis of such common conditions as mood disorder or anxiety disorder. The Attorney General would get to decide who among the millions of anxious or depressed Americans should be denied a license. The bill sets no limits on the Attorney General’s powers. There is no process for appealing the results of the evaluation or denial of a license.
In high-crime cities especially, where funding for police has been severely cut and faces possible elimination, the right to possess and use arms in self-defense has never meant so much. The gun control fanatics want to legislate expansive licensing and registration requirements to infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment right “to keep and bear Arms.” They intend to deny law-abiding Americans the means to defend themselves and their families without due process, depriving them of “life, liberty and property” in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
Rep. Lee’s bill did not make it out of the House the last time she tried in 2019. If it had, the Republican-controlled White House and Senate would surely have prevented it from becoming law.
This time, the House, Senate and White House are all controlled by the Democrats who support radical gun control legislation. If Rep. Lee’s bill, or something like it, is passed by the House during the current congressional term, the bill could still be stopped in the Senate by a filibuster. If the Senate Democrats eliminate the filibuster and the bill is signed by President Biden, the Supreme Court could still rule that it is unconstitutional. But progressives are plotting a strategy to pack the Supreme Court with their own brethren so that they can reconstitute the Court into the equivalent of a progressive legislature. With the packed Supreme Court under their control, the progressives will be able to reverse the Heller decision and uphold the constitutionality of far left gun control laws. The Second Amendment hangs in the balance.