Republican New York Congressman Chris Jacobs, who received a “C-minus” rating recently in the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2022 Congressional “Report Card,” has introduced legislation to “require a license to acquire or receive an assault weapon, and for other purposes.”
It is not likely this legislation will gain much traction, considering Jacobs announced in June he would not be running for another term, “amid backlash over his support for new gun control measures,” as reported in June by WXXI News. At the time, according to the report, Jacobs said he was retiring rather than face what would almost certainly have been “an incredibly divisive election.” His announcement came after he had already been campaigning to run in the recently re-drawn 23rd District.
Jacobs was one of only two Republicans who crossed the aisle in July to vote for H.R. 1808, the House bill to ban the future manufacture and sale of so-called “assault weapons.” The other Republican was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. The legislation was loudly condemned by gun rights organizations, and major news organizations almost unanimously predicted it would not pass the Senate, which is evenly split.
According to a press release from Jacobs’ office, this new legislation “would create a new licensing system for any American seeking to purchase a new assault weapon – anyone who already owns an assault weapon at the time of enactment would be grandfathered in.” That exemption also applies to active duty military and law enforcement officers.
This licensing process “would require an individual to take a mandatory safety course, pass an FBI background check, submit fingerprints, and provide proof of identity.” The license would have to be renewed every five years if the licensee wants to purchase or obtain additional semi-auto rifles.
Jacobs’ press release also stated, “If an individual fails to pass a background check at the time of purchase, disqualifying information becomes available, or DOJ finds an individual poses a threat to themselves or others, their license can be withdrawn. Importantly, this bill will also increase the availability of information on criminals that the FBI draws from when conducting a background check. The bill also contains protections for the privacy and constitutional rights of license holders.”
The measure, H.R. 8882, was introduced Sept. 19, and complete language had still not been posted by the House three days later. Considering Jacobs’ earlier vote on banning so-called “assault weapons,” Second Amendment activists in the Empire State might wonder if this is some sort of “going away” gesture.
Jacobs’ current 27th Congressional District is located in northwest New York State, encompassing the suburban Buffalo region. Four months ago, on May 14, a then-19-year-old southern New York resident identified as Payton Gendron allegedly entered a Tops supermarket in Buffalo and fatally shot 10 people with a so-called “assault-style” rifle. The suspect turned 19 in June. The supermarket is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and the attack appears to have been racially motivated, according to several published reports.
While Jacobs claims his bill “will better ensure these guns do not fall into the wrong hands, while still protecting Americans’ ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” there is no guarantee—as with any other gun control legislation—that determined criminals will be prevented from obtaining any such firearm.
According to WKBW News, Jacobs insists his proposal is “common sense gun legislation.” Gun rights activists might suggest this sounds like rhetoric from the gun prohibition lobby.
“We can honor and protect our Second Amendment,” Jacobs said in a prepared statement, “while also ensuring that dangerous weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. We must do more to ensure the safety of our schools and communities, and I urge my colleagues to join me in sponsoring this legislation.”
At this writing, H.R. 8882 did not have a single co-sponsor, and with midterms looming, attaching one’s name to such a bill might be a problem, especially for incumbents in swing districts.