Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the Empowering Law Enforcement for Safer Firearm Transfers Act. This bill would enable local law enforcement to block the sale or transfer of any weapon regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA), including silencers.
“As we saw in Virginia Beach, silencers in the wrong hands pose a serious safety risk to the public,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “No one knows their local communities better than law enforcement. And no one is better suited to determine if an individual should have access to a dangerous accessory, like a silencer, than the men and women who protect us every day.”
“My constituents sent me to Congress to try to end the gun violence epidemic. As lawmakers, we have an obligation to do everything in our power to save lives and make our communities safer. We must put politics aside and work together to pass common sense protections that keep our constituents safe. This is practical legislation that both Republicans and Democrats can support.”
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. The bill would include a 90-day window to allow the CLEO to block the transfer or sale if law enforcement determines the applicant 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.
Notably, because the CLEO is not required to process every application, and can instead focus on individuals known to law enforcement, the compliance burden would no longer be an issue under Congresswoman Wexton’s bill.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
This legislation is supported by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).