In 2011, the problem of gun violence hit especially close to home for me when my good friend and colleague, then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was shot and nearly killed when meeting with her constituents. Six other people died as a result of that senseless act of violence. This, along with many other tragedies, reinforces the need for our country to enact sensible firearm safety reform.
I am inspired by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors and students, as well as those across the country who are speaking out against gun violence and condemning the National Rifle Association (NRA). These young people are a real force for change, and I stand with them in saying “never again.” In response to recent school shootings, some have suggested arming teachers, a misguided proposal that would only increase the risks of gun violence in schools. I am opposed to doing so because schools should be a safe haven for students. Arming teachers could create an even more dangerous learning environment.
There was absolutely no reason for the shooter in Las Vegas to be able to amass a stockpile of 47 weapons; many of them high-powered rifles. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are approximately 350 million firearms in civilian ownership – more than enough for there to be a gun for every American adult and child. The sheer number of firearms, coupled with how easily they can be obtained, results in increased accidents, self-inflicted harm, and intentional acts of violence. Reducing access to and the availability of firearms is one avenue to reducing violence, and I support gun buyback programs like those which have been successful in U.S. cities and other countries, such as Australia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System in 2016, the year for which the most recent data is available, there were 38,658 deaths involving firearms, with over 14,400 of those being homicides. No other developed country in the world experiences this high rate of gun violence. We cannot continue to treat tragedies like those in Las Vegas and Orlando, the two deadliest shootings in modern American history, as the status quo. We must take a comprehensive approach to combating this epidemic.
In Congress, I am taking action to attempt to prevent gun violence and curtail the trend of mass shootings to keep our communities safe.
- Preventing individuals from owning the most dangerous weapons: I am a co-sponsor of legislation to reinstitute the assault weapons ban by prohibiting the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of specific types of semiautomatic weapons and magazines capable of accepting more than ten rounds as well as halting the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (H.R. 5087, the Assault Weapons Ban). I am also a co-sponsor of H.R. 6643, the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018. This legislation regulates 3-D printed guns in the same manner as traditional firearms; mandating that only licensed gun manufacturers can produce of 3-D printed frames, receivers, or complete guns, and that purchasers must undergo a background check even to acquire a partial receiver. Further, I have also co-sponsored legislation that bans “bump stocks,” attachments used by the Las Vegas shooter, and other similar items that are used to make fire semiautomatic weapons at an even faster rate (H.R. 3947, the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act).
- Ensuring no firearm purchase without a background check, no matter how long it takes: I strongly support closing the “Charleston loophole,” which currently allows a buyer to take ownership of a gun after three business days, whether or not the required background check is completed. I am a cosponsor of H.R. 3464, the Background Check Completion Act of 2017, which prohibits a licensed gun dealer from transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person prior to completion of a background check. The vast majority of these checks take only minutes to complete, and if the databases are provided with accurate, up to date information, they can help stop some of these horrific shootings before they occur.
- Stopping dangerous weapons from falling in to the wrong hands: I also support the Thompson-King Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (H.R. 4240). This legislation would give grants to states to help them submit information to NICS and expand the existing system to cover all commercial firearm sales. This includes gun shows, internet purchases, and classified advertisements. Reporting requirements to NICS vary from state to state; some states do not have to report certain information, such as having a history of severe mental illness or convictions for domestic violence. Improving NICS, bolstering reporting requirements, and making sure everyone undergoes a background check when buying or transferring firearms will help ensure that.
Improving mental health treatment must also be at the forefront of the fight to reduce gun violence. Often less acknowledged in the discussion about gun violence prevention is that 62 percent of firearms deaths are suicides, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. To be clear – simply because an individual suffers from a mental illness does not make them inherently violent; but limiting wide access to weapons that could be used by an individual to harm themselves or others is a straightforward way to help turn the tide of these preventable deaths. Individuals should have access to the quality mental health care that they need and deserve. I have consistently supported improving investments in mental health resources, and it is absolutely critical that these services continue to be covered as one of the essential health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
I support the Second Amendment. However, we must dismiss the notion that the rights granted by the Second Amendment are absolute in their authority. We can enact commonsense gun measures that meaningfully reduce firearm-related violence, injury, and death while continuing to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners. As a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to address this dire issue.
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