December 8, 2023 – A bill called the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion Act (the “GOSAFE Act”) was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate to ban semi-automatic firearms based on their method of operation, as opposed to their features like prior “assault weapons” bans. The GOSAFE Act seeks to prohibit the manufacture, sale, import, transfer, or possession of gas-operated, semi-automatic firearms that have the ability to accept a detachable magazine, or a fixed magazine with a capacity of more than ten rounds. Semi-automatic shotguns, recoil-operated semi-automatic pistols, and firearms chambered for .22 rimfire ammunition are exempted from the proposed ban.
The bill directs the Attorney General, assisted by the ATF, to “publish, and update, a list of gas-operated semi-automatic firearms in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce that are subject to prohibition,” and sets forth a process for manufacturers to seek approval of any new firearm design before it is manufactured, as well as an appeal process for any adverse determination by the Attorney General. Furthermore, the bill includes a “buy-back program” for currently owned firearms prohibited by the statute.
The bill also prohibits the manufacture, sale, import, transfer, or possession of any device designed to modify a firearm considered lawful under the statute into a prohibited firearm, or any device that “materially increases the rate of fire of the firearm” or “approximates the action or rate of fire of a machinegun.” This will include bump stocks.
The bill’s proponents argue that it purportedly protects Americans’ constitutional right to own and possess firearms because it does not prohibit firearms with “permanently fixed” magazines that have limited capacities. This argument, however, is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent and well-established constitutional principles. In fact, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen makes explicitly clear that firearms regulation is constitutional only if it is “consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.” Suffice to say, the proposed GOSAFE Act would violate the Second Amendment because it does not fit “within our Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” as required by Bruen. Federal courts around the country have already struck down several firearm prohibitions on this basis, and it is likely that many provisions of the GOSAFE Act, if enacted, would meet the same fate. Considering the current political divide in Congress, however, it is unlikely that the bill will even pass the Senate during this session, and has little hope in the Republican controlled House.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor the cases challenging the GOSAFE Act and other firearm related lawsuits around the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related litigation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.