New Bill Would Penalize Gun Dealers for Actions of Purchasers

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced what he's calling the "Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act" last week.

Last week, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced what he's calling the "Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act, " according to this story from, which called the bill "incomprehensible and unconstitutional."

The law currently prohibits transferring a firearm if the possessor of the gun knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that the recipient falls into one of the federally prohibited categories. What the law DOES NOT do is presume that people seeking to acquire a firearm has a criminal record, nor does it assume that individual intends to use the gun for a criminal purpose. And those transferring firearms aren't required to make such an assumption either.

Kaine's new bill would hold a person strictly liable for transferring a firearm to a prohibited person, unless he or she could somehow demonstrate having "taken reasonable steps to determine that the recipient (was) not legally barred from possessing firearms or ammunition…" If you think that wording is ambiguous, it's because it is. The steps to take are never specified in the bill. That means a person would be risking a federal felony with every firearm transfer, according to this story from

"As recent tragedies in Virginia and across the country have shown, the gun laws in our country have done little to stem senseless gun violence," Kaine said in a release. "These numbing incidents in urban, rural, and suburban communities are made worse by the lack of accountability in those instances where the tragedy might have been prevented…Why should someone be able to casually place an illegal firearm in the hands of a felon or other prohibited person?"

The legislation suggests that a gun dealer would be held accountable, even for the actions of customers who pass the mandatory federal background checks, unless they perform some further duty, but that is not spelled out. The bill calls for some pretty stiff penalties if violated.

As a recent study out of Chicago confirms, criminals almost always acquire illegal firearms from trusted family members or close criminal associates whom they trust, not through legal firearms purchases or transfers.

Some speculate that the bill won't go very far in the current Republican-controlled Congress.