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U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich Takes Aim at Gas-Operated Semi-Auto Firearms in GOSAFE Act


Senator Martin Heinrich, New Mexico’s senior senator in our nation’s Congress, introduced a bill last month to amend the U.S. criminal code regarding firearms (Section 922 of Title 18), specifically gas-operated semi-automatic firearms.


S.3369, the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion Act, or the GOSAFE Act, states “…it shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, receive, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a firearm, device, or combination of parts…” related to gas-operated semi-automatics.


To fully explain this bill, here are a few terms defined:
The principle function of a firearm is to propel a projectile with an ignition sequence. When a bullet is fired upon ignition, it creates a gas that burns quickly; most firearms today are made to protect the firearm as well as the user from being harmed by that gas. The term semi-automatic simply refers to a firearm’s capacity to load the next round automatically (in contrast to an old-fashioned revolver where the user manually turns each chamber before firing the trigger). A fully automatic allows for the firing of multiple rounds at once. In short, a semi-automatic fires one round with one trigger pull while a fully automatic fires continuous rounds with one trigger pull.


A gas-operated semi-automatic firearm is designed to utilize the gas from ignition to power a function to discharge the spent cartridge case and insert a new cartridge, typically referred to as “cycling the action.” The function uses a system of pistons and ports in the firearm to increase reloading speed, while still requiring a trigger pull for each round, in keeping with the definition of a semi-automatic.


The GOSAFE Act aims to regulate the parts involved in creating a gas-operated firearm — the pistons and ports designed to harness and vent a firearm’s ignition gas and increase the rate of fire.


The GOSAFE Act also lists exemptions to the proposed prohibitions, stated as “the importation or manufacture by or for, sale or transfer to, or possession by or under the authority of, the United States or any department or agency thereof or a state or tribe, or a department, agency, or political subdivision thereof.”


There is also a listed exemption in direct relation to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, stated as “the importation or manufacture for, sale or transfer to, or possession by, a licensee under Title I of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 for purposes of establishing and maintaining an on-site physical security protection system and security organization required by federal law, or the transfer to, or possession by, a contractor of such a licensee on-site for such purposes or off-site for purposes of licensee-authorized training or transportation of nuclear materials.”


The final, general exemption includes legal gas-operated firearms that were in circulation prior to enactment of the GOSAFE Act.
The GOSAFE also lists specific exemptions for firearms of particular characteristics, including:
“A rifle that is a single-shot rifle; is a breech loading rifle with a capacity not to exceed two rounds of ammunition; is a muzzle-loading rifle or smooth bore shoulder-fired firearm; uses a bolt action, lever action, or pump action to cycle the action of the rifle; or has a permanently fixed magazine with a capacity not to exceed ten rounds of ammunition that cannot be converted or changed to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition.”


“A shotgun that is a single-shot shotgun; is a breech loading shotgun with a capacity not to exceed two rounds of ammunition; is a muzzle-loading shotgun; uses a bolt action, lever action, or pump action to cycle the action of the shotgun; is a semi-automatic or auto-loading shotgun; or has a permanently fixed magazine with a capacity not to exceed ten rounds of ammunition that cannot be converted or changed to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition.”


“A handgun that is a single-shot handgun; is a breech loading handgun with a capacity not to exceed two rounds of ammunition; is a muzzle-loading or smooth bore handgun; uses a bolt action to cycle the action of the handgun; is a single or double action revolver; is a single or double action semi-automatic handgun that uses recoil to cycle the action of the handgun; or has a permanently fixed magazine with a capacity not to exceed fifteen rounds of ammunition that cannot be converted or changed to accept more than fifteen rounds of ammunition.”


The GOSAFE Act is being described by Senator Heinrich as well as his partisan colleagues as “common sense gun regulation,” that protects traditional firearms. The bill currently awaits a review by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.


You can contact Senator Heinrich at https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/contact.

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