This week, to coincide with the anniversary of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the U.S. House is scheduled to begin mark-up on a gun control bill that, if passed, would have done nothing to stop the shooting.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, or H.R. 8, does not target criminals or those intent on breaking the law. Instead, it curtails the normal, law-abiding behavior of everyday gun owners. Worse, anti-gun advocates are deceptively marketing this legislation as a “safety” bill that will keep guns away from dangerous people.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Universal background checks will never truly be universal because criminals do not comply with the law. This legislation will not change criminal behavior — it will simply make illegal normal behavior that can, in fact, save lives.
As a rape survivor, I know firsthand the need for self-defense against an attacker with a weapon, and I find it particularly helpful in my own journey of healing to instruct women in how to use a firearm and empower themselves so they never become victims. I have a standing notice to my personal network, that if they want firearm safety and instruction, I am willing to provide that to them at no cost.
A few months ago, a close friend took me up on that offer, and we headed out to a local gun range where I taught her how to shoot. I remember the giant smile on her face when she realized she hit her intended target. I was proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone to learn a new, important skill.
If H.R. 8 had been enacted, and I had lent my friend that firearm to go back to the range and continue her education, I would have committed a crime punishable by up to $1,000 in fines or one year in prison. That’s because the bill makes it illegal for someone to hand over possession of their firearm to most other people — even if they know the person well. Further, innocent mistakes would not be excused under this law. A person would not have to know they were committing a crime in order to be prosecuted.
Most upsetting, however, is that anti-gun advocates claim that such legislation will make Americans safer when it’s clear the legislation ignores the realities of crime in our country.
H.R. 8 will not stop criminals from stealing firearms, getting them on the black market or buying them through straw purchasers. It would also have failed to prevent any of the recent mass shootings. The majority of mass shooters in modern history have passed a background check — so it wouldn’t have stopped them. And those who didn’t purchase their firearms, stole them — so it wouldn’t have stopped them, either.
We need real solutions for crime in this country, and we need to stop vilifying firearms and firearm owners. Anti-gun politicians love to point the finger at law-abiding gun owners while ignoring the larger problems that get at the root cause of crime. It’s shameful, it doesn’t help anyone and it needs to stop.
Floridians should encourage their representatives to vote against H.R. 8. It’s important that all Floridians understand what this piece of legislation is really about, and whom it actually will impact.
Shayna Lopez-Rivas is a Florida gun-rights advocate based in Tallahassee.