On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia introduced his Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act. Under the RTFA, gun providers — both sellers and gift-givers — must take reasonable, affirmative steps to ensure the recipient is legally allowed to have a gun. This would apply to both commercial dealers and private sellers alike (the “gunshow loophole” commonly touted by gun control groups).
Currently, it is already illegal to sell or give a gun to anyone who falls within certain categories, such as convicted felons, someone who’s been adjudicated as mentally defective or a person under a domestic restraining order.
Sen. Kaine pointed out that under current laws, sellers are protected from criminal prosecution unless they knew or had reasonable cause to know a deal violated one of those prohibitive categories.
“It’s virtually impossible to prosecute anyone under that law, because the transferor can just say, well gosh, I didn’t know,” Sen. Kaine said in a conference call with reporters.
His bill would require sellers or gift-givers demonstrate “reasonable steps” were taken to check a recipient’s qualifications, such as conducting a background check on anyone they are providing a gun to, whether it is a family member or complete stranger, or possibly requiring all recipients possess a concealed handgun license. The bill keeps the definition of “reasonable steps” open-ended, which would leave the enforcement subject to any number of interpretations by various prosecutors and courts across the country.
Kaine was the governor when the shootings at Virginia Tech occurred and the recent shooting of the news reporter and crew in Roanoke, Virginia pushed him to introduce the bill, which he acknowledged he had been “mulling over” for a few months. He admitted, however, that his bill would not have prevented the shooting in Roanoke.
“You can support the Second Amendment, but also recognize there can be reasonable limitations,” he said. “The reasonable limitation here is a simple one: When federal law has determined that someone is not able to possess a weapon, you shouldn’t put a weapon in that person’s hand.”
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