Febraury 13, 2019 — As the House Judiciary Committee meets today to vote on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, members of the Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition sent a letter to congressional leadership urging them to pass the lifesaving legislation. Signed by 15 law enforcement leaders from across the country, the letter illustrates the urgent need to close loopholes in America’s background checks system that endanger communities, including the thousands of law enforcement officials who put their lives on the line every day for our public safety.
“Every day, law enforcement officers witness the devastating impact America’s gun violence crisis is having on the communities they are sworn to protect,” said David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords and a retired ATF Special Agent of 25 years. “They understand that action can’t wait—not when more than 100 Americans die each day from a gunshot. These professionals are calling for Congress to do their jobs and pass legislation to require a background check for every gun sale. It’s a critical first step in preventing dangerous individuals from getting their hands on guns. Lawmakers—regardless of party— who are serious about taking action to make our country safer should support this legislation.”
The letter outlines how the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act made background checks a requirement for federally licensed gun dealers and created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Federally licensed dealers must run a check through NICS to determine whether a potential buyer is prohibited from purchasing firearms.
However, no background check is required for sales at gun shows, through online marketplaces, or between unlicensed individuals. This has allowed individuals who would otherwise be prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun to easily buy guns through these unregulated sales. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) would require a background check on every sale, ensuring that people prohibited from purchasing firearms cannot exploit loopholes and purchase guns.
The letter reads: “We joined the Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition out of a desire to use our experiences to advocate for commonsense gun laws that will save lives. We do not wish to limit the freedoms and rights of responsible gun owners. Our support for universal background checks stems from our dedication to maintaining public safety, protecting the citizens in our communities, and ensuring that firearms are purchased lawfully. We urge you to pass H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, as soon as possible.”
Members of the Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition who signed on to the letter include:
- Commissioner John Barbieri – Springfield Police Department (MA)
- Chief Andrew Bidou – Vallejo Police Department (CA)
- Chief Jim Bueermann – President of the Police Foundation
- Chief Ret. Robert Champagne – Peabody Police Department (MA)
- Chief Louis Dekmar – LaGrange Police Department (GA)
- Chief Ret. Ivan Fossen – Glenwood Police Department (MN)
- Chief Michael Gahagan – Caribou Police Department (ME)
- Chief Jeffery Hadley – Chatham County Police Department (GA)
- B. Todd Jones – Former Director of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
- Chief Scott Knight – Chaska Police Department (MN)
- Chief Ret. Ron Louie – Hillsboro Police Department (OR)
- Chief Chris Magnus – Tucson Police Department (AZ)
- Chief Henry Stawinski – Prince George’s County Police Department (MD)
- Commissioner Ret. Charles Ramsey – Philadelphia Police Department (PA)
- Sheriff Mike Reese – Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (OR)
House Speaker Pelosi and Chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Mike Thompson introduced the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8) with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the opening days of the 116th Congress.
The gun death rate in America has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that in 2017, nearly 40,000 Americans died from gun violence, more than 100 Americans every day.
Last week, Giffords Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas testified before the House Judiciary Committee urging swift passage of H.R. 8. Her testimony was part of Giffords’ efforts to push for immediate progress on two key gun safety priorities: passing background checks for every gun sale and funding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research into the country’s epidemic of gun violence.
- Factsheet: H.R. 8 – The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019
- Resource Page: Learn More About Universal Background Checks
- Press Release: Executive Director of Giffords Law Center Testifies in First House Gun Violence Prevention Hearing in Over a Decade
- Giffords Blog Post: 6 Must-See Moments from the Historic House Hearing on Gun Violence
- Press Statement: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the House of Representatives Introducing the Bipartisan Background Checks Bill on the Anniversary of the Tucson Shooting