Last week, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced the “Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act.” It is exactly what it sounds like in that it would push states and municipalities to require purchase permits for all handguns.
Specifically, the bill would establish a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to create a permit-to-purchase (PTP) law.
In order to qualify for those federal dollars, the state’s PTP law would need to satisfy all of the following mandates:
- The applicant must be at least 21 years old
- The applicant must apply for the permit via a law enforcement agency in their state of residency
- The applicant must pass a background check
- The applicant must provide fingerprints and a photograph.
The purchase permits would be valid for a period not to exceed five years. After which, they would need to be renewed. The press release for the “Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act” did not mention a fee associated with the PTP process. (But let’s not kid ourselves, states are definitely going to use this PTP scheme as a money-making enterprise. Which is tantamount to taxing a Constitutionally-protected right.)
“The evidence is clear: sensible handgun laws save lives. All states require licenses to drive a car or hunt or fish – so why not handguns, which can kill? Requiring a license to purchase a deadly weapon is at least as important as requiring one to drive a car,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
“A bill as basic as encouraging states to adopt responsible handgun licensing should win broad, bipartisan support,” he added.
Supporters of the legislation claim that PTP laws save lives, citing a recent white paper published by the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. (With a name like that, I’m sure they don’t have a dog in this fight. Cough. Cough.) Homicides per 100,000 people skyrocketed 17-27 percent through 2017 after Missouri repealed its licensing law in 2007, according to the paper.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence applauded the bill, arguing that most Americans want PTP laws on the books.
“Recent polling shows that 77 percent of Americans support requiring licenses to purchase firearms. This legislation is evidence-based, politically popular, and should be supported by elected officials on both sides of the aisle,” said CSGV executive director Josh Horwitz.
“America’s gun violence epidemic is out of control; it is time to focus on life-saving, meaningful solutions like the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act,” he continued.
For a better statistical understanding of the effect of PTP laws, I reached out to professor John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. While we’re awaiting his response, in particular to the validity of the John Hopkins white paper, I figured I’d post this graph detailing the homicide rate in Chicago from 1985-2016.
Illinois requires residents to obtain a FOID (Firearm Owners Identification) card, aka a PTP, before they are legally allowed to possess firearms and ammunition. The FOID system has been in effect for decades. But as one can plainly see, the FOID system is failing to drive down homicides in the Windy City. Perhaps, PTP laws are not the panacea anti-gunners make them out to be.
Along with Blumenthal, backers of the bill include Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Chris Murphy (D-CT). Time will tell if the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act picks up steam in Congress. Stay tuned for updates.