Coronavirus, gun sales – and a new gun control

Americans shattered monthly sales records for firearms as the coronavirus raged across the U.S. In March, the FBI logged around 3.7 million background checks, eclipsing the previous record set in December 2015. With at least 2.5 million checks conducted for new firearm sales, the figures represent a monthly increase of about 85 percent over March 2019. And now, with protests ravaging cities across the country over the police killing of George Floyd, the month of May set another record with nearly 3.1 million background checks. These sales contribute to a record 15 million checks recorded since January 1, 2020.

Anti-gun advocates and left-leaning lawmakers are also taking the opportunity to introduce a series of new gun control legislations with some draconian measures. Perhaps the most drastic measure to be introduced, H.R. 5717 is a federal bill sponsored by Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA.), which would impose a 30% ammo tax and 50% firearm sales tax.

With gun sales soaring and various states having battled in recent weeks to shutter gun stores, more Americans have turned to the online market, building their new firearms from “scratch” kits. Often called 80% firearms by enthusiasts, these kits allow the owner to perform some basic machining on the firearm components, making them functional for assembly. Now fifteen Senate Democrats, led by Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have introduced legislation attempting to ban the kits.

The legislation, also backed by Michaerl Bloomberg's Everytown For Gun Safety, a left-leaning gun control group, would require all guns sold in the United States to be serialized after January 1, 2022, to be traceable by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bill would effectively bar many Americans and small firearm businesses from selling firearm components without background checks, even though those components are not functional nor do they meet the ATF’s definition of a firearm.

Sen. Blumenthal and his Democrat cohorts did not stop there. In a letter sent to federal agencies and now made public, Sens. Blumenthal, Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) asked the ATF and FBI to halt pending gun sales while the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) suffers from an overload in light of increased gun sales. Current regulations require the agencies to allow pending gun sales to proceed at dealers after three days if NICS cannot process the background check in the allotted time.

More worryingly, federal legislation H.R. 1112, sponsored by Democrat Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, would do away with this requirement. The bill would effectively give the ATF and FBI the power to indefinitely prevent gun sales to individuals without due process.

Elsewhere, Michael Bloomberg and Everytown For Gun Safety continue to pour money into lobbying for gun control in Arizona. State Senator Rebecca Rio (D) recently cosponsored S.B. 1625, a state-level assault weapon ban.

While the nation grapples with a pandemic and violent protests, Senate Democrats have made it clear they intend to pursue gun control as a hot-button topic during a polarizing election year. Sen. Murphy, who like Blumenthal has pushed for more gun control, spoke of the chances for any Senate action on their cosponsored bill this year. But Murphy said that doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t push the issue. “I can see the writing on the wall as to what we’re doing between now and November, things related to Covid-19 and nominations,” Murphy said. “But it’s important to keep the pressure on.”

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