Debbie Dingell again proposes putting guns under consumer safety laws

Gun Rights

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For the fourth Congress in a row, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, is taking on the gun industry.

Specifically, she’s reintroducing a piece of legislation that would simply remove from the Consumer Product Safety Act passed a half-century ago an exemption for firearms, meaning the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) would be able to regulate them for safety defects through warnings and recalls.

Dingell’s husband, the late U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who was known to have been a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), supported the exemption. After he retired from Congress and Dingell took the seat he had held, she made no bones about her desire to get rid of the exemption, first filing a bill to do so in 2018.

It didn’t go anywhere. But she’s filed it again and again in every Congress (which begins in January of each odd-numbered year) since.

“It feels personal to me because of the history,” she said Wednesday, the day the bill was reintroduced. “It’s time to change the law. I have talked at length about the fact that this is an issue John and I disagreed on. He knew I was going to introduce this bill. When I did, he said ‘Times have changed.'”

Dingell, whose husband died in 2019, said she feels it’s up to Congress to “do something to help prevent unnecessary accidents that can turn deadly.” But the bill is almost certain to go nowhere again in the current Congress, with Republicans holding majority control of the U.S. House, despite reports of people being injured by misfiring handguns.

The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has remained adamant that any attempt to put firearms under the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s aegis would lead to it attempting to ban guns (though the Supreme Court has already ruled any such attempt would be unconstitutional). As proof, it’s been pointing to what it calls the CPSC’s recent mission “to protect Americans from well-prepared meals, by banning the ubiquitous gas stove.” Recently, the House passed legislation to keep the CPSC from doing that, too − though there is no formal effort underway to ban gas stoves by the Biden administration.

Dingell says her proposal is about people getting shot by accident.

“Faulty guns that can be fired with the safety still engaged and without anyone pulling the trigger remain on the market,” she said. “We shouldn’t hold firearms to a different standard than any other consumer product. If someone’s gun isn’t working right, the commission should be able to recall it.”

Meanwhile, Democrats have had more success passing bills in Lansing, as they’re in control of both chambers of the state Legislature. This spring, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of gun control bills, including a so-called “red flag” law that allows law enforcement, family members and some others to ask courts to temporarily take firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Contact Todd Spangler: Follow him on Twitter@tsspangler.

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