Giffords Reveals Top Policy Priorities for a New Congress Ready to Pass Gun Safety Legislation

Giffords outlines priorities for 116th Congress, including two initiatives the new majority should take up immediately: passing universal background checks and securing funding for the CDC to research gun violence for the first time in decades

December 4, 2018 — This November saw a stunning shift in the political landscape as millions of Americans, angered by a Congress that refused to address our nation’s gun violence crisis, elected a new gun safety majority in the House of Representatives. As this new Congress prepares to take power, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, released a new memo today highlighting policy priorities for immediate consideration—starting with passing universal background checks and funding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research into the country’s epidemic of gun violence after decades of dormancy.  

“The House of Representatives will no longer be silent as our nation continues to suffer from a gun violence crisis,” said Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs at Giffords. “Americans are tired of feeling like no place is safe from gunfire—not their neighborhoods, not their schools, not even their homes. This new gun safety majority in the House of Representatives is ready to act. Universal background checks and a push to finally provide funding to top federal researchers to explore this crisis should become a cornerstone of the new majority. We look forward to advancing these and other critical gun safety priorities that show Americans that their calls for action have been heard.”

In the memo, Giffords details how implementing universal background checks would ensure people prohibited from purchasing firearms cannot do so through unregulated sales via an unlicensed dealer, online seller, gun show, or private sale. It also notes that closing background check loopholes saves lives: states that require a background check on every handgun sale experience 38% fewer gun homicides of women by intimate partners53% fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed, and 53% fewer firearm suicides.

The memo also urges legislators to invest in federal research at the CDC. Although the public and medical professionals recognize that gun violence is a public health problem, the CDC has received no money to study it for more than two decades. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as well as CDC Director Robert Redfield, have both acknowledged that the agency is not prohibited from studying gun violence, and Congress can—and should— appropriate money to conduct research.

According to recent polling, 7 in 10 Americans want stronger gun laws, and an overwhelming majority—97%—are in favor of universal background checks. 87% consider gun violence to be a public health crisis and 76% support the CDC funding research on gun violence.

The memo also details additional policy priorities that should become the subject of bills, hearings, and action in order to fully address our gun violence epidemic, including:

  • Enacting Extreme Risk Protection Orders

  • Preventing Domestic Abusers from Accessing Firearms

  • Funding Evidence-Based Violence Intervention Programs

  • Preventing Gun Trafficking

  • Regulating Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines

  • Treating Bump Stocks like Machine Guns

  • Repealing Gun Industry Immunity

  • Implementing Child Access Prevention Laws

  • Enacting Permit-to-Purchase Requirements for Handguns

  • Ensuring the Completion of All Background Checks

  • Alerting Law Enforcement of Attempted Prohibited Purchases

  • Strengthening Oversight of Firearms Dealers

  • Setting Up Federal Law Enforcement Agencies for Success

  • Developing Gun Safety Technology

In addition to legislation, Giffords is urging Congress to exercise its oversight authority over federal agencies responsible for enforcing gun laws such as the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On the state level, legislatures have seen overwhelming success at passing stronger gun safety laws. In the past year, 27 states passed 67 new gun laws. This includes laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers, improve background checks, fund urban violence reduction programs, and implement extreme risk protection orders, which allow law enforcement or family members to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in crisis. In 2018 Republican governors in more than 10 states signed gun safety bills into law.

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