On Capitol Hill, Giffords Senior Policy Advisor and Former ATF Special Agent Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee About Protecting Americans from Assault Weapons
‘Protecting America from Assault Weapons’ hearing is the latest move by the majority to take action in response to the country’s gun violence crisis
September 25, 2019 — David Chipman, Giffords senior policy advisor and former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) special agent, spoke before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary today on how federal lawmakers can better protect the public from dangerous individuals obtaining assault weapons to cause harm. Drawing from his more than 25 years in law enforcement, Chipman testified that keeping our communities safe from gun violence requires federal action to keep military-style and high-powered weapons out of the hands of criminals.
“Throughout my career, I served on the front lines of our government’s efforts to prevent violent crime and effectively regulate the firearms industry, the core missions of ATF,” said David Chipman Giffords senior policy advisor and former ATF special agent, in remarks for the House Judiciary Committee hearing prepared for delivery. “I have built my career around the belief that it is possible to balance rights and responsibilities. I have stood in the face of danger to protect public safety holding an assault weapon. It is simply unacceptable that military-style and high-powered weapons are so readily available to civilians today and that they increasingly lead to the loss of innocent lives. We can and should take action to make our communities safer from these weapons.”
Semi-automatic assault weapons are a class of firearms designed for war. The most common variety, the AR-15, is the civilian version of the M-16, a combat rifle designed for use by the United States military. The AR-15 and its many variants are a class of firearm marketed by the gun industry in an attempt to reverse a decline in consumer demand for guns during the 1980s. Today, the firearms industry sells semi-automatic assault weapons to Americans who desire to carry weapons used by the military and law enforcement.
Semi-automatic assault rifles offer a lethal combination: rifle ammunition capable of penetrating bullet-proof vests, coupled with the capability to accept detachable magazines that can hold as many as 100 rounds. For this reason, semi-automatic assault weapons are frequently the guns of choice for individuals who carry out horrific public attacks. Some states have incorporated additional features into their definitions of assault weapons, such as the use of pistol grips or folding stocks.
A Giffords policy framework describes ways federal lawmakers can regulate and restrict access to semi-automatic assault weapons. The legislative framework utilizes an existing federal regulatory structure that allows law-abiding Americans to legally possess these firearms, while also addressing the future manufacture and/or sale of these firearms.
The components of the federal framework include:
- Require all existing semi-automatic assault weapons to be regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). This proposal balances the rights of law-abiding gun owners with the need to regulate those firearms with lethal characteristics similar to those already regulated under the NFA.
- Prohibit the future manufacture and sale of assault weapons to reduce the easy availability of such weapons to civilians.
- Increase resources to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) so that it can enforce the NFA with respect to these and other NFA weapons, including resources needed to modernize and upgrade its equipment and technologies. While the NFA imposes a $200 tax on the registration of each NFA weapon, that money currently goes to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s General Fund, not to ATF. That money should be redirected to ATF to fund its responsibilities under the NFA.