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Congressional Research Service: Gun Control Legislation

Author: William J. Krouse
November 14, 2012


"To gun control advocates, the opposition is out of touch with the times, misinterprets the Second Amendment, and is lacking in concern for the problems of crime and violence. To gun control opponents, advocates are naive in their faith in the power of regulation to solve social problems, bent on disarming the American citizen for ideological or social reasons, and moved by irrational hostility toward firearms and gun enthusiasts," states this report on U.S. federal gun control legislation.

Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. In the wake of the July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO, theater mass shooting, in which 12 people were shot to death and 58 wounded (7 of them critically) by a lone gunman, it is likely that there will be calls in the 112th Congress to reconsider a 1994 ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices that expired in September 2004. There were similar calls to ban such feeding devices (see S. 436/H.R. 1781) following the January 8, 2011, Tucson, AZ, mass shooting, in which 6 people were killed and 14 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously wounded. These calls could be amplified by the August 5, 2012, Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee, WI, in which six worshipers were shot to death and three wounded by a lone gunman.

The 112th Congress continues to consider the implications of Operation Fast and Furious and allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) mishandled that Phoenix, AZ-based gun trafficking investigation. On June 28, 2012, the House passed a resolution (H.Res. 711) citing Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt for his failure to produce additional, subpoenaed documents related to Operation Fast and Furious to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. On May 18, 2012, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), which would amend a limitation on the Secretary of Defense's authority to regulate firearms privately held by members of the Armed Forces off-base. On May 10, 2012, the House passed a Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that would fund ATF for FY2013, and on April 19, 2012, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported a similar bill (S. 2323).

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