Committee approves FY19 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, sends to House floor
May 17, 2018 — As the nation marks National Police Week, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, called on the House Appropriations Committee to do more to support federal law enforcement agencies. The statement came in reaction to the committee’s markup of the FY19 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) bill that funds agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). While the bill includes Giffords-suggested language encouraging states to establish or expand hospital-based violence intervention programs that are proven to break the cycle of violence, it also contains harmful riders that would limit the ability of ATF to fulfill its duties, such as taking on gun traffickers. It can now be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Statement from David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords:
“This week, as tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from across the country travel to the nation’s capital, Congress is holding many events to honor their service. However, one action you won’t see them take is passing legislation that will truly help the women and men who risk their lives every day to protect our communities and keep our families safe.
“While the legislation marked up today contains important provisions, such as continued bipartisan support to fund our national background check system, a modest increase in ATF’s budget, and supporting evidence-based programs proven to reduce gun violence like hospital-based violence intervention programs, it also includes damaging and dangerous measures that make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect their communities. This includes riders that would hinder the ability of dedicated ATF agents to identify and prosecute gun traffickers. And when members of the Committee offered solutions to these limitations on law enforcement and take proactive steps to reduce gun violence, their proposals were not accepted.
“Moving forward, we hope both sides of the aisle can find the courage to strip away these harmful riders so we have a bill that truly supports those who are serving. Giffords will continue to work with any leaders who are ready to push for this goal.”
National Police Week brings 25,000 to 40,000 attendees to Washington, DC from departments across the United States. Dangerous loopholes in our nation’s gun laws pose serious threats to the safety of law enforcement officers: firearms-related incidents were the number one cause of death for law enforcement in 2016 when 64 officers were killed from gunfire, representing a 56 percent increase over the 41 officers killed by gunfire in 2015. As of April 2018, the number of officers killed from gunfire had risen 73 percent from the year before. Of the 64 shooting deaths of officers in 2016, 21 were the result of ambush-style attacks—the highest total in more than two decades.
Funding levels in the FY19 CJS bill for Giffords-supported initiatives, bureaus and programs to improve gun safety include:\
- $1.31 billion in ATF funding, an increase of $23 million from FY18.
- $75 million for states to upgrade record to National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), of which $25 million is for the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP).
- $75 million for violence intervention and prevention programs within the Department of Justice, along with report language recognizing the effectiveness of hospital-based violence intervention programs. Gun violence can be addressed through these programs using community-based violence prevention and intervention strategies that are proven to save lives.
Harmful gun riders in the FY19 CJS bill include:
Section 529, which would prohibit the ATF from denying an application to import any model of shotgun, even those not deemed for “sporting purposes.” The rider, in turn, allows firearms with incredible destructive capabilities to enter the United States with zero government oversight. The rider includes language intended to make this provision permanent.
Section 536, which would prohibit the ATF from issuing demand letters to federal firearms dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to receive records of sales of certain semi-automatic rifles. Section 536 would dramatically hinder ATF’s ability to prevent international guns trafficking. From 2009 to 2014, 70 percent of the 105,000 guns traced from Mexico originated in the United States. Over the past five years, ATF has received over 40,000 reports of multiple sales involving 90,000 rifles; as a result, over 300 investigations have been opened and over 370 defendants have been recommended for prosecution.