A sweeping new bill introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Hank Johnson would realize a slew of big-ticket gun reform policies, including universal background checks, an updated assault weapons ban, and expanded funding for federal gun violence research.
It would also significantly increase security requirements at the nation’s tens of thousands of firearms dealers. A 2019 investigation by The Trace and The New Yorker illuminated the growing problem of gun store theft.
If passed, the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act would require gun stores to guard against thieves through the use of video monitoring, alarms, safes, and other measures to be prescribed by the U.S. attorney general. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would also be authorized to hire an additional 650 inspectors to carry out compliance checks, and stores found to have violated the new security rules could face fines or be forced to shut down.
Under current federal law, gun stores can operate without so much as a lock on the door. Burglars have taken notice, stealing nearly 30,000 firearms from dealers and other licensed gun sellers between 2014 and 2018.
The 259-page legislative package is in many ways a compilation of earlier gun measures that failed to gain traction under Republican control of the Senate and the White House. The gun store security and ATF hiring provisions were originally part of legislation introduced in 2019 by Representative Joe Morelle, a Democrat from upstate New York.
Morelle drew up his bill after The Trace and The New Yorker reconstructed the exploits of a burglary ring that targeted several poorly fortified gun stores in North Carolina and stole 200 firearms in the latter half of 2014. At least 68 of those guns were later involved in crimes, including murders in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Warren is among several Democratic candidates for president who have incorporated gun safety into their campaign platforms, and the issue has come up repeatedly during the presidential race.