Preventing Gun Violence
Working to Prevent Gun Violence
The epidemic of gun violence continues to grip the nation. From the concert shooting on the Las Vegas strip, the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history, to the horrific scene at a high school in Florida where seventeen people were killed by a gunman, this past year saw citizens across the country continue to grapple with the realities of gun violence.
I have dedicated myself to fighting the scourge of gun violence. During my twenty years in Congress, I have consistently earned a 100 percent vote rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and all other major groups fighting against gun violence.
Preventing Automatic Gunfire
A gunman opened fire on thousands of people attending a music festival in Las Vegas, killing 59 and injuring more than 500. He was armed with 32 guns in his hotel room; one dozen were outfitted with a “bump stock” device, which converted the semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. It is illegal for civilians to possess machine guns. However, individuals are able to purchase “bump stocks” for less than $200 and easily convert a semi-automatic weapon into a firearm that can rapidly accelerate a semi-automatic weapon's rate of fire to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.
No person should possess a device that turns a semi-automatic rifle into the equivalent of a machine gun. That is why I joined my colleagues to introduce the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act which would ban the manufacture, possession, transfer, sale, or importation of bump stocks. We cannot become a country where the tragedy in Las Vegas becomes the new normal.
High capacity magazines are another dangerous tool. By enhancing a weapon’s firing capability and reducing the need to reload, mass shooters have been able to inflict military-grade firepower on victims. I joined my colleagues in introducing the Keep Americans Safe Act, which prohibits the transfer, importation, or possession of magazines that are able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Finally, I have long been supportive of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, that banned the manufacturing of certain semi-automatic firearms for civilian use. These military-grade weapons, like the AR-15 used by the gunman in Parkland, Florida, are a common thread connecting the deadliest mass shootings in America. There is no reason that military-grade weapons should be easily available; we must immediately reinstate the assault weapons ban.
Background Checks - Closing the Gun Shop Loophole
There is no single law that can put an end to mass shootings or gun violence, but there are proactive steps we can take to keep guns out of dangerous hands. One step is bolstering background checks which serve as the first line of defense in our efforts to keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill.
That is why I cosponsored the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act which expands the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet, and in classified ads. The bill also helps strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by incentivizing states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grant funds toward better record-sharing systems. Studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. However, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad. The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act closes these loopholes.
Concealed Carry Laws
Just two months after the Las Vegas tragedy, the House, unfortunately, passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act which would allow the concealed carrying of dangerous firearms across state lines. Right now, each state has the right to determine the extent to which it will recognize the concealed-carry laws of other states. Some states have strong laws, preventing dangerous people like domestic abusers and convicted stalkers from obtaining concealed-carry permits and requiring training and thorough evaluation as part of the process. In other states, concealed-carry laws have much lower standards. The 12 states with the weakest laws do not even require a permit. That means residents of those states may carry loaded, concealed guns in public spaces without ever having passed a background check. I vehemently opposed this short-sighted and dangerous piece of legislation because it would make it harder for law enforcement to do their job and pose a serious threat to public safety.
Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Act
Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim, and adding the threat of firearms heightens the risk of fatality for a victim. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 55% of female homicide victims were killed in connection to violence committed by intimate partners.
When a victim makes the decision to leave an abusive situation and seeks help from law enforcement, our system must do everything in its power to protect the safety of the abused. This is why I cosponsored the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act which prevents domestic abusers under restraining orders from obtaining weapons. Under federal law, it is illegal for an abuser to possess a firearm if he or she becomes subject to a protection order or is convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. However, there are currently insufficient resources to ensure that authorities have the tools needed to verify a domestic violence offender’s prohibited status—and even fewer resources to ensure that no domestic violence offender continues to have access to lethal firearms.
The Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act aims to rectify these decencies within our system by establishing a grant program to encourage states to adopt a baseline of criminal disarmament policies in dangerous domestic violence situations. The bill also promotes state and local court policies that routinely identify whether a dangerous gun is present and order its removal when it poses a threat to the victim.
These are just some of the issues I am focused on to reduce and prevent gun violence in America. I will keep working to prevent these types of tragedies and make our communities safer.