When the new Congress takes office, it’s time to get to work.
By Robin Lloyd, Government Affairs Director
When the 116th Congress takes office on January 3, 2019, they’ll do so with a mandate: fight for laws that will save lives from gun violence.
Voters made it clear during the 2018 midterm elections that our leaders must take action. Candidates who ran on gun safety won, while candidates who spouted NRA talking points lost in record numbers. Gun safety isn’t a third rail anymore; it’s a must.
With a gun safety majority taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, we can accomplish a lot. Here’s what we’re going to be fighting for.
These are our top two priorities for the new Congress.
PASS UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
Today, in many states, criminals and other dangerous people can buy a firearm from an unlicensed or online seller, at a gun show, or through a private sale between individuals. These loopholes severely undermine our ability to prevent dangerous people from accessing a firearm. Passing universal background checks for all gun sales is the strongest way to fix this problem.
Background checks are proven to save lives: States that require a background check on every handgun sale experience 38% fewer gun homicides of women by intimate partners, 53% fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed, and 53% fewer firearm suicides.
FUND FEDERAL GUN VIOLENCE RESEARCH
Gun violence is a public health crisis. But in order to truly address a public health problem, we must first fully understand it. The solution is simple: lawmakers should invest in federal research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only a lack of funding is preventing the CDC from performing this lifesaving research. In October 2018, CDC Director Robert Redfield stated that the CDC has no restrictions on potential research, and if money is appropriated by Congress, the CDC will move forward with gun violence research.
We’ll continue to push for these proven policies, too.
ENACT EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDERS
When someone experiences a crisis and demonstrates dangerous behaviors, there should be a way to ensure that person doesn’t harm themselves or others. Extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws enable family members or law enforcement to petition a court for a temporary order prohibiting a person from purchasing or possessing firearms. ERPO laws are designed to help people like the shooter in Parkland, Florida, who classmates, teachers, family members, and law enforcement officers noticed was exhibiting dangerous behaviors.
PREVENT DOMESTIC ABUSERS FROM ACCESSING FIREARMS
Domestic violence and firearms are a deadly combination. In fact, a woman is five times more likely to die if her abuser has access to a firearm. Current federal law does not prevent abusive, non-spousal partners from buying a firearm, nor individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking. Congress should enact legislation to prevent abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from purchasing and possessing firearms.
FUND EVIDENCE-BASED VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAMS
Gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color, often driven by a very small subset of the community. Community-based violence intervention programs disrupt cycles of violence by targeting people at high risk of experiencing gun violence—and intervening before they do. A similar intervention program lets hospitals provide counseling, case management and social services. To be successful, these strategies require consistent funding, which Congress should swiftly provide.
REGULATE ASSAULT WEAPONS AND LARGE CAPACITY MAGAZINES
Under current federal law, you must be 21 to buy a handgun from a gun dealer—but only 18 to purchase a military-style assault rifle. This is what enabled the Parkland shooter to purchase an AR-15. Meanwhile, large capacity magazines can hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition, and dramatically increase a shooter’s ability to injure and kill large numbers of people quickly. Most Americans agree that we need commonsense laws to limit both assault weapons and large capacity magazines:
- 78% of voters support an assault weapons ban
- 77% support raising the minimum purchase age to 21
- 70% percent of voters support a ban on large capacity magazines
TREAT BUMP STOCKS LIKE MACHINE GUNS
Bump stocks modify a semi-automatic weapon to act like an automatic weapon. It’s what allowed a gunman in Las Vegas to fire more than a thousand rounds of ammunition in 11 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 more. Over a year since the Las Vegas massacre, Congress has still done nothing. The 116th Congress should act swiftly to ensure these dangerous items don’t fall into the wrong hands.
IMPLEMENT CHILD ACCESS PREVENTION LAWS
When guns are easily accessible at home, research shows there’s an increased risk of suicide, accidental injuries, and deaths among children. Child access prevention laws hold adults liable when minors gain access to negligently stored firearms or when parents provide a firearm to a minor. 4.6 million American children live at home with loaded, unlocked guns—it’s critical that Congress pass legislation to encourage states to enact these laws.
ENACT PERMIT-TO-PURCHASE REQUIREMENTS FOR HANDGUNS
We require a license for driving, fishing, and working as a teacher, but most states do not require a license to purchase or possess a gun. Permit-to-purchase laws require that someone obtain a license or permit from law enforcement before purchasing a gun. These laws are proven to make communities safer by reducing firearm homicides and keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals.
ALERT LAW ENFORCEMENT OF ATTEMPTED PROHIBITED PURCHASES
When felons and other prohibited people try to buy a gun, they may also be planning violent crimes. But current law does not ensure that state or local law enforcement are notified of these attempts. Bipartisan legislation was introduced in 2018 to close this gap in our background checks system but went nowhere. Notifying local law enforcement could help prevent prohibited purchasers from accessing firearms in other ways, like through an unregulated private sale or over the internet.
No one gun law will stop every shooting, but we have solutions that will save lives if our leaders have the courage to pass them. The American people overwhelmingly support universal background checks and other commonsense policies. And now, a gun safety majority is coming to Congress. Millions of voters—young and old, Democrat and Republican, urban and suburban—rallied for stronger gun laws and the candidates who support them. The election is over; it’s time to get to work.