Toomey-Schumer Gun Bill Contains Potential Caveat to Gun Registry Prohibition

UPDATE [4/12/13]: As introduced, this specific problem has been address.

The Heritage Foundation’s David S. Addington is clearing up any doubt about whether the Schumer-Toomey Manchin (STM) Gun control bill is good legislation.  Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid (NV) is doing his darndest to “jam it through the Senate before anybody can read and decipher it.”

Unfortunately for Reid, he isn’t fast enough to pull the wool over Heritage’s eyes.

Addington warns:

Due to the sloppy drafting of the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin (“STM”) legislation, and hopefully not to the intent of the Senators, the legislation could lead to starting a federal gun registry.

This is a problem, first and foremost because it is a potentially sweeping change to the law.  Current law regarding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System directly prohibits the creation of a federal gun registry. 

The Toomey-Schumer bill “fuzzes up the law prohibiting a federal gun registry.”  While it offers protections against a national registry – such as explicitly stating that nothing in the legislation shall be construed to allow establishment of a federal firearms registry — it takes away those protections with one key word: “notwithstanding.”

Addington adds:

”notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Attorney General may implement this subsection with regulations.” The courts may construe the “notwithstanding” to allow Attorney General Eric Holder to issue regulations that could begin to create a federal registry of firearms, because the law says he can implement the subsection without regard to the protections against a registry elsewhere in the legislation.

So it’s one word!  No big deal, right?


The courts view the word “notwithstanding” as very powerful,” and the legislation would give Attorney General Eric Holder “the broadest possible discretion by empowering him to implement the STM background check legislation by regulations ‘notwithstanding any other provision’ of the legislation.  

The main takeaway is that this bill does not directly create a national gun registry; however, it breaks down the barriers currently in place to the same.

Words matter.  The Senate doesn’t have room for sloppy wording in any gun legislation it produces.  It is not worth risking Americans “statutory rights… to live free from a federal government registry of everybody who has firearms, what types of firearms they have, and where they have them.”

As Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham stated:

Americans are tired of backroom deals.  Legislation drafted behind closed doors and rushed to the Senate floor has no place in our political system.

To be clear, lawmakers will not get a pass on any bill that infringes on the constitutional rights of the American people. 

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