A view of the US Capitol in Washington (AP File Photo)
A view of the US Capitol in Washington (AP File Photo)

Since the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama and many in Congress have pushed a “do something” mentality on gun control.

Heritage experts urged lawmakers to consider the host of complex factors that contribute to violent outbreaks and to steer away from untested ideas that would restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens. But the plan facing a vote in the Senate today would have much broader effects on law-abiding citizens than it would do anything to curb gun violence.

The plan, proposed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), gives Attorney General Eric Holder the power to write countless regulations affecting gun laws. Heritage legal expert David Addington has detailed three dangers to American citizens from the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin gun control bill:

1. It sets “a trap for the innocent.”

The bill’s treatment of gun transfers “lets the Justice Department send people at gun shows to jail for up to five years for a crime they did not even know was a crime.”

2. It allows firearms dealers to do secret background checks on job applicants.

Employers could run secret background checks on job applicants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database without obtaining consent from the job applicants.

3. It “reduces existing privacy protection for mental health records relevant to background checks.”

The bill would weaken existing privacy protection for mental health records in connection with the NICS system, “leaving only what privacy protection the Attorney General cares to provide,” Addington explains.

These changes all affect law-abiding Americans—eating away at our civil liberties. Empowering the Attorney General to write more regulations will not avert future tragedies like we witnessed in Newtown.

As Heritage’s John Malcolm and Jennifer Marshall pointed out, “Gun control laws do not correlate with decreased violence. If gun control were a panacea, then Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Chicago, which have very strict gun control laws, would be among the safest places to live rather than among the most dangerous.”

We need to address the underlying problems that lead to violence and fix any outstanding issues with the current system. But encroaching on the rights of Americans and eroding privacy laws is not the way to do it.

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