Giffords Calls on Policymakers to Take Urgent Measures to Protect Democracy from Armed Insurrectionists
Washington, D.C. — When insurrectionists stormed the United States Capitol, they committed a brazen attack on America’s democracy. Unfortunately, there is a very real and serious possibility that this attack was just the beginning. The FBI has warned members of Congress of credible threats to their safety, and has also warned of armed protests at all 50 state capitols on or around Inauguration Day.
As bad as the violence was on 1.6.21, Washington DC’s strong gun laws reduced the prevalence of firearms among the insurrectionists and helped prevent the violence in the US Capitol from being even more deadly. Very few states across the country have gun laws that are as strong.
With the imminent threats looming across the country, Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords, the gun safety organization founded and led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, called on policymakers to take immediate action:
“January 6, 2021 was a dark day in our nation’s history. Violent insurrectionists and white supremicists stormed the US Capitol and threatened the lives of our elected leaders. While our democracy withstood the attacks, very real threats to it and the potential for violence remain. Policymakers across the country must heed the stark warnings and take immediate action to stop armed insurrectionists before any more blood is shed.”
“Guns have no role in our democratic process. Lawmakers should not face violent threats and fear for their lives. Voters should not be intimidated. And white nationalism must be expelled from our systems of justice.”
Specifically, Giffords calls on federal and state officials to act immediately and decisively to stop any future desecration of the US Capitol; to guarantee that similar insurrectionist violence—or worse—does not occur; and to ensure a peaceful transition of power and the continued health of our democracy. In particular, Giffords recommends the following actions:
- Prohibit firearms on state capitol grounds: Immediately, in states where firearms are not already banned at state capitols, officials must act to prohibit firearms on capitol grounds. The FBI has warned that there is credible evidence that armed insurrectionists may attempt to storm government buildings and commit violent acts. Prohibiting firearms under these circumstances is a commonsense and necessary precaution. Additionally, firearms should be prohibited in government buildings and at polling places.
- Prohibit insurrectionists from possessing firearms: Congress and state legislatures should enact prohibitions on gun possession by people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes and misdemeanors involving insurrectionist violence. Without such prohibitions, perpetrators of crimes like those on January 6 may be able to continue possessing guns even after being charged with felonies by pleading down to misdemeanors like disturbing the peace.
- Pass federal legislation to enact universal background checks: A background check should be required on every gun sale. This is supported by upwards of 90% of Americans and would help ensure that those prohibited from buying a gun do not obtain one. The House has passed bipartisan legislation on this (HR 8), and it should become law.
- Enact and strengthen extreme risk laws at the federal and state level: Extreme risk laws allow courts to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose serious threats to themselves or others. The individuals who organized and planned the January 6 insurrection made their plans known in advance, and stated clearly on social media what they intended to do. If individuals make detailed plans to commit insurrectionist violence and a judge finds there is convincing evidence they intend to follow through on these threats, courts must be empowered to remove guns from such individuals until they no longer pose an immediate danger.
- Regulate ghost guns like all other guns: Ghost guns are do-it-yourself guns with no serial numbers that are acquired without background checks. It has been reported that extremists planning violence in the days leading up to the inauguration are using encrypted communication platforms to share knowledge about how to make and use homemade guns and bombs. Because of ATF’s failure to regulate ghost guns, extremist insurrectionists can acquire lethal weaponry with no questions asked and no paper trail. ATF has the power to solve this ongoing problem, and the violence of January 6 underscores that it has the obligation to do just that.
Beyond these policy recommendations, it’s essential that we expel white nationalist sympathizers from law enforcement and ensure accountability. White nationalists and those who tolerate or sympathize with white supremacists have no place in law enforcement. We must police our nation’s police forces and bring to account officers who condone or tolerate violence like that which occurred on 1.6.21.
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