In the aftermath of the San Bernardino mass shooting, Democrats have ramped up pressure in their calls for tighter gun controls while Republicans quietly attempt to sweep the topic under rug. Such discourse eventually wanes as emotions and the national attention dies out – only to be predictably rehashed once again following another mass shooting. These cyclical gun control debates have routinely been reactive in nature, waiting until we bury scores of our loved ones before we speak out or take action to protect the American people.
Most recently, my colleagues and I in Congress have called for several votes on the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, a commonsense approach to protecting the American people by preventing those on the Terrorist Watch List from purchasing firearms and other deadly devices. While such a regulation would appear to be an obvious and straightforward approach to protecting the American people, my Republican colleagues have refused to even allow a debate of the bill on the floor of the House. Instead they argue that more firearms regulations would not stop mass shootings, as the San Bernardino shooters were able to legally acquire assault weapons in California, where some of the strictest firearm regulations exist. I agree that there is a sliver of truth to this argument.
I agree that no matter how many laws we pass, we may not be able to entirely eradicate our epidemic of mass shootings. Those hell-bent with the motive of inflicting mass death may ultimately find a way to do so by circumventing whatever regulations and roadblocks lawmakers put in place. However, this does not mean that we should step back, take a hands-off approach, and make it permissive to do so.
We should be exhausting every effort to make it as difficult as possible for those intent on killing from carrying out their twisted missions. Often times this discussion surrounds background checks, assault weapons bans, and closing the gun show loophole – provisions that I strongly support as necessary and relevant to protecting the American public. However, what is rarely discussed is the emerging prevalence of homemade firearms.
Representing Silicon Valley, I have seen firsthand the ways in which technology can accomplish great things in progressing our society. However, I have also seen the ways in which technology and innovation has the potential to do harm. New threats such as 3-D printed guns, ’80 percent receivers,’ and do-it-yourself assault weapon kits have arisen amongst those who seek to acquire firearms undetected. What is most disturbing is that, under Federal law, the sale and assembly of such gun parts into fully functioning firearms requires no serial number, sales record, or background check. Even President Obama’s executive actions announced this month expanding background checks would not encompass such homemade firearms. In other words, our law enforcement has no idea that such firearms exist until they’re used in a crime.
We know that the threat of homemade weapons is real with gun stores and online vendors readily supplying the equipment and technical know-how to produce AR-15 style assault rifles in your own garage. The San Bernardino shooters had acquired the knowledge and material to produce an excess of pipe bombs in their own home. Had they been prevented from purchasing a firearm legally, who could confidently say that they would not have been able to easily assemble their own assault rifles with parts purchased over the internet just as any person – even noncitizens – can currently do in the United States?
The alarming phenomena of homemade firearms and their ease of access without any scrutiny, has led me to introduce two pieces of legislation in the House – the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act and Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act. These two bills would mandate anyone who intends on legally manufacturing their own firearm to obtain a registered serial number to be affixed on the firearm and would block the sale of any form of do-it-yourself firearms parts or kits – especially those currently being sold over the internet. It is my hope to draw attention to the too often overlooked issue of homemade firearms and include these firearms in the national discussion on gun control. For once we may be able to have a proactive approach in protecting the American people from an emerging threat rather than retroactively lashing out after great damage and loss has already been done.
Honda represents California’s 17th Congressional District and has served in the House since 2001. He sits on the Appropriations Committee.