April 12, 2018 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, released the following statement reacting to the legislation announced by Governor Ducey to address gun violence and school safety in Arizona.
Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director:
“Whether it’s a mass shooting that terrorizes a community or the daily toll that takes too many lives, our nation’s gun violence crisis has shown no signs of stopping this year. People are outraged at politicians who have done nothing on a basic responsibility – keeping us safe. Arizona leaders need to listen to the people they represent – not gun lobbyists behind closed doors.This does not meet the needs of the state and it will not do enough to keep people safe. We hope that Democrats and Republicans will come together and demonstrate the courage to improve the Governor’s proposal to include policies that will actually make a difference.”
Concerns with Governor Ducey’s Proposed Legislation:
- The Governor’s STOP proposal creates an unreasonably long, cumbersome, and loophole-ridden process for suspending dangerous people’s access to guns and falls well short of the Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that have been adopted with bipartisan support in other states.
- Though this proposal creates a process for suspending some dangerous people’s access to guns, it would make it harder to take an objectively dangerous person’s guns away in many cases than it is to have that person committed to a psychiatric hospital against their will. As a result, this plan does not do enough to ensure that courts and concerned family and community members can act—and act quickly—to avert shootings, suicides, and other tragedies.
- Under this STOP proposal, if a concerned family member presents strong evidence under oath that a loved one has made threats of violence, courts would still be required to hold a minimum of two full court hearings and make three separate findings before they could suspend the dangerous person’s access to guns.
- To reach just the first stage in the STOP process, a mandatory mental or behavioral health evaluation, the court would have to rule twice that there was “clear and convincing evidence” of the person’s dangerousness. This is generally the standard for involuntarily committing a severely mentally ill person in Arizona.
- The STOP process is in many ways both duplicative of, and more cumbersome than, existing law in Arizona where adults can already petition courts or evaluation agencies for an order requiring a person who is a danger to self or others for mental health reasons to undergo emergency psychiatric evaluation and treatment—under a much more reasonable standard.
- Additionally, unlike Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, which allow courts to act if a person is dangerous for any reason, the STOP proposal only applies if a person is dangerous due to mental, behavioral health, or substance abuse issues. It is not clear that this would allow Arizona courts to act, for instance, to temporarily disarm a person who has made credible threats of violence motivated by hate or bigotry.
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders already set a very high bar before courts can act to disarm objectively dangerous people to prevent gun tragedies. Unfortunately, this STOP proposal adds too many counterproductive hurdles and delays, allowing more dangerous people to fall through the cracks and keep and use deadly weapons with devastating effect.
Important policies that could help prevent the next mass shooting in Arizona, include:
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws enable law enforcement and families to petition a court for a temporary order prohibiting a person from purchasing or possessing firearms. These orders are sought when a person demonstrates behaviors that indicate pose a significant danger to themselves or others. ERPO laws are exactly the type of policy that could help people struggling in crisis, including the shooter in Parkland, Florida, as the shooter’s classmates, teachers, family members, and law enforcement officers appear to have been aware that he was exhibiting dangerous behaviors. For more information please contact us at email@example.com.
- Expanding Background Checks: There is no gap more glaring in our gun laws than the federal background checks law, which allows felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill to purchase firearms at gun shows and online without undergoing a background check. In states that require background checks for all handgun sales 47% fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners, there are 47% fewer firearm suicides, and 53% fewer law enforcement officers are shot to death by handguns.
- Domestic Violence: Federal law prohibits abusers who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and abusers subject to certain domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns. However, significant gaps in our laws exist. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that individual has access to a firearm. [American Journal of Public Health]. In 2011, over half of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners or family members. [U.S. Department of Justice]
Giffords is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence. Led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, Giffords inspires the courage of people from all walks of life to make America safer.