Committee boosts funding for ATF in FY20 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill
Washington, DC — Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by Representative Gabrielle Giffords, applauded the House Appropriations Committee for passing legislation that invests significantly in gun violence prevention. Today, the committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, which contains $1.44 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the agency tasked with enforcing America’s firearms laws and regulating the gun industry. That number marks a 9.3% increase—an additional $122 million—above the Fiscal Year 2019 enacted level.
The bill’s committee report also directs ATF to release comprehensive statistical data on gun trafficking. It has been nearly two decades since the last such data, which proved invaluable to researchers and policymakers seeking to address gun violence. Notably, the bill does not contain several legislative riders championed by the gun lobby, which have been used to hamper ATF’s ability to carry out its duty to enforce America’s gun laws.
David Chipman, Giffords Senior Policy Advisor and former ATF Special Agent of 25 years:
“Congress has routinely starved ATF of the resources and capabilities to carry out its mission—making our gun violence crisis worse and perpetuating this horrific cycle. Today’s bill is a step towards righting this wrong. With gun deaths in America showing no signs of slowing down, the House is finally standing up to the gun lobby and its congressional allies to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies can better protect our communities.
“The committee didn’t stop there. After 20 years on the shelf, they directed ATF to update a firearms trafficking report so we can better understand how bad actors are gaming the system. Firearms that are diverted into the illegal market are often used in violent crime, and better understanding the patterns that allow weapons to get in the hands of dangerous individuals is a critical tool for law enforcement.
“We are also glad to see more investment in our national background check system, as background checks are one of the most important ways for agents to prevent a shooting before it happens. We are grateful to Chairwoman Lowey, Congressman Serrano, and the House Appropriations Committee for standing alongside federal law enforcement and helping them keep Americans safe from gun violence.”
In addition to robust funding for ATF, the legislation includes an increase of $264 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from FY19 enacted levels. The FBI is responsible for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to ensure that convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people do not purchase guns from federally licensed firearms dealers. The legislation also provides funding for grant programs to improve NICS and the bill’s committee report requires that state and local law enforcement be notified when a prohibited individual fails a background check while attempting to purchase a firearm in their jurisdiction, mirroring a bipartisan bill that Giffords endorsed earlier this year. The funding bill also includes grant programs to fund community-based violence intervention programs; Giffords Law Center recently documented how Oakland, CA has used such programs to reduce nonfatal shootings and homicides by half since 2012.
In the bill’s report, the committee prioritizes the collection and sharing of data about gun crimes and gun deaths: in addition to the ATF trafficking report, the committee directed the FBI to release a Universal Crime Report examining homicides, as well as collaborate with ATF and the National Institute of Justice to create a mass shooting report.
Funding levels in the FY20 CJS bill for Giffords-supported initiatives, bureaus and programs to improve gun safety include:
- $1.44 billion in ATF funding, an increase of $122 million from FY19, along with report language recommending that funding be used to reduce the backlog of National Firearms Act applications and hire additional dealer inspectors. Report language also encourages ATF to open an additional National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) terminal at the southwest border to solve gun crimes and prevent trafficking.
- $80 million for states to upgrade record to National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), of which $27.5 million is for the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP).
- $9.46 billion in FBI funding, an increase of $264 million from FY19.
- $43.5 million for violence intervention and prevention programs within the Department of Justice.