I support sensible gun safety laws and strict enforcement of those laws to help prevent crimes, suicides and violence committed with firearms. I support the steps President Obama outlined recently to curb the gun violence that plagues our nation, and I believe Congress can and should work to enact legislation to prevent gun violence without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
I was an original cosponsor of the Brady Law (P.L.103-159). This law requires prospective handgun purchasers to undergo criminal background checks before purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. The background check system is able to make 92 percent of background check determinations on the spot, and since 1994, has prevented more than 1.5 million firearm purchases. Additionally, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics, since the Brady Law went into effect, the number of gun deaths in the United States dropped 22 percent, from 39,595 in 1993 to 30,769 in 2007. The number of gun homicides dropped by more than 29 percent, from 17,024 in 1993 to 12,129 in 2007.
While the Brady Law has been successful in reducing gun violence, I believe more has to be done. For example, only 60 percent of all gun sales in the United States take place at licensed federal dealers, where background checks are mandatory. The remaining 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by unlicensed individual sellers, often at gun shows, and a background check is not required. This means that across our nation, any dangerous individual can go to a gun show and purchase a deadly weapon without any form of background check. To close this ‘gun show loophole,’ I am a cosponsor of the Gun Show Background Check Act. This bill would enact the common sense principle that anyone who wants to purchase a firearm at a gun show should be able to pass a simple background check. Ten national police organizations support closing this loophole.
Additionally, I am a cosponsor of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, a bill that seeks to reduce gun violence by keeping firearms out of the hands of terrorists and criminals. Although hard to believe, nothing in current law prohibits individuals on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms, unless they fall into another disqualifying category. This “terror gap” in federal law must be closed, and this bill would do just that. This legislation would deny the transfer of a firearm when a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist and the Attorney General has a reasonable belief that the purchaser may use the firearm in connection with terrorism. Keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists is just common sense.
I also have always supported the rights of sportsmen and hunters. Hunting is a way of life for millions of Americans and plays an integral role in modern wildlife management. But military style assault weapons have no sporting purpose. Because of these weapons, our nation’s citizens are in greater danger and police officers across the country are encountering criminals armed with highly lethal military style weapons.
To support our law enforcement community and to save lives, I am a cosponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. This legislation would prevent the future possession, manufacture, sale and importation of assault-type weapons while grandfathering weapons lawfully possessed at the date of the bill’s enactment. It would ban firearms with detachable magazines and military style features, such as grenade launchers, protruding pistol grips, and barrel shrouds. It would support law enforcement officers across our nation, who should not be forced to confront lawbreakers toting military arms. And it would protect the rights of hunters by specifically naming thousands of firearms with legitimate sporting, sentimental or other value that would remain legal to possess.
This bill also would ban high capacity ammunition magazines. Studies have shown that high capacity ammunition magazines are used in 31 to 41 percent of fatal police shootings in cities across our nation. They also have been used by the perpetrators of numerous mass shootings, including at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, the Tucson shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others, the attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and the horrifying shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The Newtown shooting alone left twenty six people dead, twenty of them children.
We must not wait until more places are added to this heartbreaking list. We can and should act swiftly to protect our families and loved ones from mass shootings. These measures have the overwhelming support of law enforcement communities around our nation, who have implored us to make changes to stop the flood of these types of weapons into the hands of those who would use them for harm. I will continue to work for common-sense gun safety measures.
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