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Connolly Joins Wexton, 8 Dems in Introducing Bill Empowering Local Law Enforcement to Deny Sale of Dangerous Firearms

Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) joined Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) in introducing the Empowering Law Enforcement for Safer Firearm Transfers Act. The legislation would enable local law enforcement to block the sale or transfer of any weapon regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) if law enforcement determines that an individual poses a danger to themselves or others, or if there is a reasonable likelihood that they intend to use the weapon for anything other than lawful purposes.

NFA-regulated weapons include machine guns, silencers, destructive devices, and short-barreled shotguns and rifles.

“Giving chief law enforcement officers additional information and input on transfers of firearms and equipment will go a long way in ensuring community safety by keeping firearms out of the hands of unlawful users. The MCCA thanks Rep. Wexton for her leadership and looks forward to working with her to advance this legislation,” -- Major Cities Chiefs Police Association

“Local law enforcement should be required to review and approve every purchase of deadly, NFA-regulated items like silencers, with no exceptions. This bill would be a key step towards keeping these dangerous accessories out of the wrong hands, and we applaud Rep. Wexton for her leadership in introducing it,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Local law enforcement has a duty to prevent gun violence and communities have demanded a more strategic, holistic, and preventative approach to public safety that rely on evidence-based practices rather than mass incarceration. This legislation would do just that, equipping local law enforcement with an opportunity to weigh in on the transfer of items covered under the National Firearms Act, before those weapons make their way into our communities. This is a common-sense safeguard that empowers local communities and leaders to keep American families safe. Brady is grateful to Rep. Wexton for championing this bill and looks forward to it becoming law," said Kris Brown, President of Brady: United Against Gun Violence

Under current law, individuals seeking to obtain a silencer or any other NFA-regulated item must obtain approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), pass a background check, pay a tax of $200, and notify the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of the jurisdiction in which they reside. 

Prior to 2016, the CLEO was required to approve or deny all transfers, but this requirement was removed as a result of expanded NFA background check requirements that placed an undue compliance burden on law enforcement. The Empowering Law Enforcement for Safer Firearm Transfers Act would bring the CLEO back into the process, establishing a 90-day window to allow the CLEO to block the transfer or sale. The CLEO would not be required to process every application, but instead would focus on those individuals known to law enforcement.

Congresswoman Wexton first introduced the Empowering Law Enforcement for Safer Firearm Transfers Act in June 2019, following the deadly shooting in Virginia Beach in which 12 people lost their lives. The shooter, a former city employee who attacked a local municipal building, used a silencer to suppress the sound of his gunfire.

The Empowering Law Enforcement for Safer Firearm Transfers Act is supported by Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

In addition to Wexton and Connolly, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Joe Neguse (D-CO).

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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