Washington must not repeat the mistakes of the past. When Congress granted a sweeping amnesty in 1986, it did so with the promise of enforcement and border security. As President Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III noted, out of all the promises made, “Only amnesty prevailed.” Since then the population of illegal immigrants has nearly quadrupled.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that S.601 outlays will be $12.2 billion over the fiscal year 2014-2023 period, though the substitute amendment will drive that cost significantly higher. In a time of record deficits, this is no time to be spending billions more on many activities that would be more appropriately funded and managed by states, localities, or the private sector.
For years, the Federal government has placed local-government and private-sector activities (such as beach replenishment, hydropower generation, flood control, and recreation facility construction and management) into the Army Corps of Engineers’ mission. For example, S.601 continues paying for the Corps’s 4,200-plus recreation areas. It also extends the life of beach nourishment projects by 15 years even though the projects have already lasted for 50 years. This federal spending on a local priority is akin to subsidizing wealthy owners of beachfront property. The bill also creates the National Endowment for the Oceans, designed to promote global warming policies under the guise of protection and conservation of the United States ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystem.
As The Heritage Foundation’s Emily Goff notes, before adding on any additional projects, the Corp and lawmakers need to further address the $60 billion backlog of 1,000 studies and projects and cancel funding for those that are unwarranted.
Heritage Action opposes the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 and will include it as a vote on our scorecard.
There is no Internet exemption from sales taxes; in fact, sales taxes are already collected for the vast majority of online sales. Instead, the proposal concerns the power of states over businesses outside of their borders. Specifically, the proposal would overturn a Supreme Court decision setting limits on a state’s ability to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes for them, turning every out-of-state retailer into a sales tax collector for nearly 10,000 separate state, local and municipal tax jurisdictions. The bill will likely face Due Process challenges should it become law.
This would be a dangerous extension of state power into other states. Not only would it place costly burdens on retailers, but it would allow states to impose taxes in a way that favors their local businesses over out-of-state firms, who have no representation in the taxing state. As Heritage Action has explained, the bill would likely force many online businesses to set up outside of America, be it in Canada, Mexico, China or elsewhere, to avoid the costly compliance burden.
As the Heritage Foundation explains:
They seek enactment of [the Marketplace Fairness Act] so that states can prefer in-state businesses over out-of-state businesses in the kind of anti-competitive economic discrimination the U.S. Constitution was in part adopted to prevent. As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated, “[p]reservation of local industry by protecting it from the rigors of interstate competition is the hallmark of the economic protectionism that the Commerce Clause prohibits.”
The impact of the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act is more complex than many stakeholders realize. But rather than sending the bill through regular order, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has again bypassed the Finance Committee to bring the bill directly to the Senate floor.
Heritage Action opposes the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
In addition to substantial Second Amendment concerns, the bill contains several additional flaws.
First, it would erode the privacy of law-abiding Americans. The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment fails to recognize the importance of the patient-psychiatrist relationship by reducing existing privacy protections for mental health records relevant to background checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The bill leaves the dissemination of this information to the discretion of the Attorney General. Additionally, the amendment would allow firearms dealers to secretly run government background checks on job applicants without their consent.
Second, it sets up a system to trap innocent citizens. The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment would allow undercover sting operations at gun shows to arrest people for conduct that no reasonable person would believe was against the law. The Schumer-Toomey-Manchin bill eliminates “any need for a federal prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the individual who allegedly broke the law had any kind of criminal intent.”
Third, the background check provision is much broader than the Amendment’s proponents acknowledge. The sale of any firearm publicly advertised in any venue – such as internet, Facebook, a yard sign, a church flyer, etc. – would be forced to go through a background check. To be clear, it is not just commercial sales. For all practical purposes, this requirement destroys the private seller market and in rural areas forces law-abiding citizens to drive hundreds of miles to complete a transaction. The background check requirement would make exercising one’s Second Amendment rights more difficult and potentially reduce gun ownership among law-abiding citizens. Ultimately, this massive expansion of background checks can only be enforced through a national registry to ensure full compliance. In the absence of a national registry, the aggressive use of sting operations would be used to ensure compliance.
Fourth, as one of the sponsors acknowledged, it would do little to prevent horrific crimes such as the massacre in Newtown. Gun control laws do not lead to a decrease in violence nor does gun ownership correlate to increased violence. As Heritage notes, “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.”
In totality, the bill will fail to achieve the desired results, and by infringing on Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms, it will also fail to protect citizens’ right to self-defense. Passage of “feel good” legislation will not make our communities or children safer because it ignores the root cause of these complex problems. Real, enduring solutions lie at the state and local levels, and within families and communities.
Heritage Action opposes the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.
Heritage Action Scorecard
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Undercover Busts of Innocents at Gun Shows
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Feel Free to Run a Secret FBI Check on Job Applicants
Schumer-Toomey-Manchin Gun Control Bill: Cuts HIPAA Privacy for Mental Health Records
Heritage Action: Key Vote: “NO” on Senate Gun Bill
First and foremost, any legislation must respect Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The Heritage Foundation explains the “Second Amendment drew no fundamental distinction between an individual’s right to defend himself against a robber and that same individual’s right to band together with others in a state-regulated militia.” As such, it “protects the right of individuals to privately keep and bear their own firearms that are suitable as individual weapons for hunting, sport shooting, self-protection, and other lawful purposes.”
The bill’s “universal background check” is better understood as a “gun tax.” Heritage’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Judicial Policy David Addington explains:
Title I of the Reid gun control bill purports to “fix gun checks.” The proposed “fix” in section 122 of S. 649 is to take away an individual’s right to sell or give away a firearm to another individual unless, in most cases, the individual (1) uses a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer of the firearm and (2) pays a fee to that importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer. The individual transferring the firearm is not actually receiving a service; the federal government is receiving the service. The service the government gets is a background check on the intended recipient of the firearm, because the law requires the importer, dealer, or manufacturer to run the recipient through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Forcing the individual to pay for the government-mandated service, which is in fact a service to the government, is in essence a federal tax on the individual. And the amount the individual pays as a fee is not limited by the legislation; section 122(a)(4) of the Reid bill enacts a new section 922(t)(4)(B)(i) of title 18 of the U.S. Code to grant to Attorney General Eric Holder the power to set the maximum fee by regulation.
Moreover, gun control laws do not lead to a decrease in violence nor does gun ownership correlate to increased violence. As Heritage notes, “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.”
In totality, the bill will not only fail to achieve the desired results, but by infringing on American’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms, it also fails to protect citizens’ right to self-defense. Passage of “feel good” legislation will not make our communities or children safe because it will ignore the root cause of these complex problems. Real, enduring solutions lie at the state and local levels, and within families and communities.
Heritage Action opposes S.649 and any procedural motions taken to get onto the bill, and will include the vote(s) as a key vote(s) on our legislative scorecard.
Key vote was originally announced April 2, 2013.
Heritage Action Legislative Scorecard
Heritage: Guns, Background Checks, and Your Rights
Heritage Action: Senate Bill: 8 Facts
Heritage Action: Senate Bill: Unprecedented Criminalization
Heritage Action: Senate Bill: Disrupting Legal Gun Use