Bipartisan effort underway to give tribal members easier access to guns

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 4:27 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - In a time when, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. is averaging more than one mass shooting a day, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to expand access to guns for one section of the population.

Indigenous people living in the most rural areas of Alaska often hunt to feed their families. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) points out, tribal IDs issued by tribal governments do not meet federal requirements for gun purchases.

“Another example is to get through the airport, TSA, they don’t accept a tribal I.D. Gun sellers often don’t accept a tribal I.D,” said Peltola.

Congresswoman Peltola thinks the problem for tribal IDs is that most do not have an expiration date like a typical driver’s license or passport.

“Because our citizenship doesn’t expire until we die. And we don’t have a heads up on what that date might be,” Peltola said.

Peltola has teamed up with more than a dozen Republicans to introduce the Tribal Firearm Access Act. The bill would make it easier for indigenous people to buy guns on tribal lands. However, when so many Americans are dying from gun violence, Peltola does not think this law would increase crime or mass shootings.

“That is not my overarching concern. My overarching concern is making sure that tribal IDs are seen as valid identification,” said Peltola.

The NRA and other pro-gun groups support the plan. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for gun control and against gun violence, said if there were a structure in place to ensure those who have access to guns are not at risk of harming themselves or others, it would not oppose the bill..

“We don’t want to preclude people from having access to firearms,” said Tanya Schardt, Brady’s senior counsel. “It’s really important that we ensure that there’s a robust system of laws to make sure that those who do have access to guns have been vetted. They’re going to carry public, been trained, and they understand the responsibility that comes with gun ownership.”

Peltola’s bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee but has yet to have a hearing. Should it pass the House, it is unclear how the Democratically controlled Senate would react to it.

Peltola said she has not spoken to any Democrats about it because “it hasn’t come up in conversation.”