U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY4) and gun safety advocates announced new legislation being introduced this week to make the sale of ammunition safer for law-abiding Americans who are sick and tired of the ease with which criminals can now anonymously stockpile for mass murder.
The bill, called the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, would keep Americans safe by limiting the ability of people planning for mass murder to anonymously purchase unlimited quantities of ammunition through the Internet or other mail-order means. It would also require that ammunition dealers report bulk sales of ammunition to law enforcement.
The shooter who killed 12 and injured 58 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater this month had purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition anonymously on the Internet shortly before going on his killing spree, according to law enforcement officials.
“If someone wants to purchase deadly ammunition, they should have to come face-to-face with the seller,” stated Lautenberg. “It’s one thing to buy a pair of shoes online, but it should take more than a click of the mouse to amass thousands of rounds of ammunition. This legislation is a simple common-sense step that would put safeguards in place to detect suspicious activity, helping to prevent the sale of ammunition to a terrorist or the next would-be mass murderer.”
“The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act pulls ammunition sales out of the shadows and into the light, where criminals can’t hide and responsible dealers can act as a line of defense against the planning and stockpiling of a potential mass killer,” Rep. McCarthy said. “Law-abiding gun owners and shooters should support this legislation because it hinders criminals from abusing the Second Amendment right that our nation promises and could save innocent lives in the process.”
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg also today repeated his call for the nation’s presidential candidates to discuss gun safety measures.
“If Washington doesn’t act, 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president’s term,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We should be having a great debate among two accomplished leaders and the people they’re asking to hire them. But we’re not getting leadership; we’re just getting condolences. If the presidential candidates won’t act, others will – including Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman McCarthy, who time and again have shown their steadfast commitment to protecting American lives.”
The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act works through four components:
- It requires anyone selling ammunition to be a licensed dealer.
- It requires ammunition buyers who are not licensed dealers to present photo identification at the time of purchase, effectively banning the online or mail order purchase of ammo by regular civilians.
- It requires licensed ammunition dealers to maintain records of the sale of ammunition.
- It requires licensed ammunition dealers to report the sale of more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition to an unlicensed person within any five consecutive business days.
There are indications that there is already an appetite for such a measure among the American public. Even before the Colorado shooting, earlier this summer Internet giant Google changed its policies so that ammunition and firearms are no longer sold through its shopping channels.
A recent Mayors Against Illegal Guns poll of 945 gun owners across America found that 87 percent of NRA members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
And conservative thought-leaders such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch have all publicly expressed acceptance or support for some form of gun regulation since the Colorado shooting.
The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act undoes the dangerous effects of a law advanced by the NRA in the 1980s, as explained by the Violence Policy Center’s Kristen Rand:
“Online ammunition sales are the direct result of the NRA’s flagship bill of the 1980s, the McClure-Volkmer ‘Firearms Owners’ Protection Act.’ Prior to McClure-Volkmer, interstate ammunition sales by common carrier to private individuals were banned, records were maintained of ammunition sales, and ammunition sellers had to be licensed. In today’s Internet age the effect of this change can now be measured in untold rounds of ammunition sold to the wrong buyers and all too many lives ended. We applaud the leadership of Senator Lautenberg and Representative McCarthy in working to reinstate this life-saving component of federal law.”
Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “We as a nation know we are better than this. We are better than the massacres at Aurora, Co., Virginia Tech, Tucson, and the Long Island Railroad. We are better than 32 gun murders every day. In the past week, we have been inspired to see Americans come together on WeAreBetterThanThis.org to begin a real conversation about what we can do to prevent the tragedy of gun violence in our nation – a conversation that includes Democrats and Republicans, those who own guns and those who don’t; a conversation fundamentally respectful of the Second Amendment. The American people are demanding that our elected officials and presidential candidates join that conversation by proposing real solutions and plans to make us the better, safer nation that we all know we can be. Today we applaud Sen. Lautenberg and Rep. McCarthy for doing just that — for showing true leadership in this vitally important conversation — and for proposing this measure that will save lives.”
“As the tragedy in Aurora shows, our weak laws enable dangerous people to anonymously purchase unlimited quantities of ammunition online and in stores,” Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said. “We strongly support Rep. McCarthy and Sen. Lautenberg’s legislation, which will bring desperately needed oversight to this largely unregulated area. This legislation will provide law enforcement with critical tools to help keep our communities safe from gun violence.”
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Jackie Hilly said that “The nation was shocked when 70 people were shot in Colorado and we must do what we can to help prevent these numbers of casualties in the future. Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman McCarthy’s legislation is similar to provisions already in place in some places, like New York City, and Congress should consider it seriously.”
“Ceasefire NJ is honored to stand with Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman McCarthy in support of the ‘Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act’,” said Nicola Bocour, Project Director of Ceasefire NJ. “The proposed legislation will help to prevent shootings such as the tragedy in Aurora and save lives by regulating online ammunition sales so that an individual will no longer be able to accumulate an arsenal of ammunition in such a short period of time without detection. Congress must take action against these heinous acts of gun violence and pass the ‘Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act’; the reality is if we don’t demand real and meaningful change about guns and ammunition it is easy to predict more such tragedies.”
Carole Stiller, President of the NJ Million Mom March, said: “Today a bill is being announced to stop online ammunition sales. This bill will in no way interfere with the Supreme Court’s interpretation that the Second Amendment allows people the right to own guns to protect themselves in their homes. So there should be NO opposition from the gun lobby… nor from the Congressmembers whom it routinely influences.”
The Colorado shooter used a civilian version of the military’s M-16 rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, a shotgun and two .40-caliber semi-automatic handguns commonly used by police officers.
In addition to the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, Sen. Lautenberg and Rep. McCarthy are also sponsors of legislation to strengthen the nation’s instant background check system and to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines such as the ones used in Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine, the Long Island Railroad in 1993, last year’s killing spree in Norway and numerous other mass shootings in recent history.
Law enforcement officials and advocates agree that the high capacity of the magazines used in these shootings are what enable the high number of casualties in these incidents. In many of these cases, the shooting only stopped or slowed down when the assailant ran out of bullets or experienced equipment failure.
Given that House Speaker John Boehner has said that Congress will not take up any gun control issue, and that the Senate Republicans have shown an inclination to filibuster to prevent legislation from coming to a vote, it is unlikely that the bill will come up in either house.
However, the bill could also provide a model for state legislation, a spokesman for Rep McCarthy acknowledged. However, that has not been addressed at this point.