There is only so much a President who honors the Constitution can do unilaterally to reduce gun violence, especially faced with a radical, activist, reactionary Supreme Court and a paralyzed Congress. President Joe Biden has already achieved a landmark, bipartisan Safer Communities Act, but acknowledges that much more has to be done. Nonetheless Biden has signed 21 executive actions to reduce gun violence. Not enough? Elect more legislators at local, state and federal level who will pass sensible gun violence reform, including banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips: This is from the White House:
President Biden has made historic progress on actions to reduce gun violence. To implement his comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime, the Biden Administration has taken more executive action to reduce gun violence than any other president’s at this point in their Administration. Today, the President is celebrating the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence reduction legislation to pass Congress in 30 years.
The Biden Administration will continue to use all of the tools at its disposal to address the epidemic of gun violence. The President’s FY 2023 budget proposes $32 billion in additional funding to fight crime, including $20.6 billion in discretionary funding for federal law enforcement and state and local law enforcement and crime prevention programs, an increase of 11% over FY22 enacted ($18.6 billion) and 18% over FY21 enacted ($17.5 billion).
But there is so much more that can and must be done to save lives. The President will continue to urge Congress to take further legislative action to keep dangerous guns out of dangerous hands, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks, and enacting safe storage laws.
Below are 21 ways the Biden Administration has already used executive action to make our communities safer:
Keeping Especially Dangerous Weapons and Repeat Shooters Off Our Streets
1. The Justice Department issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are unserialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes.
3. The Justice Department issued a proposed rule to better regulate when devices marketed as firearm stabilizing braces effectively turn pistols into short-barreled rifles subject to the National Firearms Act.
5. The Justice Department issued the first volume of its new, comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking.
6. The Justice Department announced a new policy to underscore zero tolerance for willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk.
7. The Justice Department launched five new law enforcement strike forces focused on addressing significant firearms trafficking corridors that have diverted guns to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
8. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched a new paid media campaign featuring a series of public service announcements to reinforce the key message that a simple gun lock can save lives.
9. The Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the Department of Transportation (DOT), announced that they will jointly create a plan for addressing lethal means safety awareness, education, training, and program evaluation.
10. ATF issued a final rule clarifying firearms dealers’ statutory obligations to make available for purchase compatible secure gun storage or safety devices.
Making Additional Progress to Reduce Community Violence
11. The President called for cities and states to use American Rescue Plan funding to reduce gun crime and other violent crime, including by investing in community violence interventions and prevention. Through May 2022, $10 billion in American Rescue Plan funds had been committed to public safety and violence prevention – including at least $6.5 billion in State and Local funds committed by more than half of states and more than 300 communities across the country.
12. Five federal agencies made changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible. For example:
• The National Institutes of Health announced funding through its Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research grants for four community violence programs – including a place-based strategy involving repurposing vacant lots in Detroit, an evaluation of READI Chicago, a burnout prevention program for violence interrupters in Chicago, and a hospital-based violence intervention program focused on youth in Virginia.
• The Justice Department announced $187 million for states and $85 million for localities through the Byrne JAG Program to support coordinated violence prevention and intervention; the Department explicitly encouraged the use of these funds for CVI.
• The Department of Housing and Urban Development published a guide explaining to localities how Community Development Block Grants – a $3.4 billion annual funding stream –can be used to fund CVI strategies.
• The Department of Education released a letter to state school associations on how 21st Century Learning Centers funds and Student Support and Academic enrichment programs – both billion-dollar formula grant funding streams – can be used to fund CVI strategies in schools.
13. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted a webinar and published information to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions. Last year, Connecticut and Illinois enacted legislation that allows Medicaid to reimburse providers for hospital-based violence prevention services – the first two states in the country to pursue this approach. According to reporting by USA Today, “[t]he idea has been in the works for years, advocates say, but not until the Biden administration signaled that states could – and should – use Medicaid dollars to support these violence prevention programs have state lawmakers stepped up.”
14. Senior White House staff established The White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a 16-jurisdiction cohort of mayors, law enforcement, CVI experts, and philanthropic leaders committed to using American Rescue Plan funding or other public funding to increase investment in their community violence intervention infrastructure.
Providing Law Enforcement with the Tools and Resources They Need to Reduce Gun Violence
15. The Justice Department announced $139 million in grants to local law enforcement that will put over 1,000 police officers on the beat through the COPS Office Hiring Program.
16. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) expanded the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Firearms Technical Assistance Project (FTAP).
Addressing the Root Causes of Gun Violence
17. The Department of Labor awarded $89 million through its Youth Build program to provide pre-apprenticeship opportunities for young people ages 16-24.
18. The Department of Labor awarded $20 million through its Workforce Pathways for Youth program to expand workforce development activities that serve youth ages 14-21 during “out of school” time (non-school hours).
19. The Department of Labor awarded $85.5 million to help formerly incarcerated adults and young people in 28 communities transition out of the criminal justice system and connect with quality jobs.
20. The Department of Labor awarded $25.5 million in Young Adult Reentry Partnership grants to organizations that will help provide education and training services to young adults between 18-24 who were previously involved with the justice system or who left high school before graduation.
21. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, awarded nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) supplemental funding to support services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children.
President Joe Biden signed the landmark Safer Communities Act – the first significant gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years – almost immediately after Congress passed the legislation, in the few minutes before departing for the G7 summit in Europe. On July 11, in an event at the White House, he commemorated the passage, acknowledging the long struggle by activists and key figures in Congress, but said “more has to be done.”
“This legislation is real progress, but more has to be done. The provision of this new legislation is going to save lives. And it’s proof that in today’s politics we can come together on a bipartisan basis to get important things done, even on an issue as tough as guns. And one more thing: It’s a call to action to all of us to do more.”
Here is a transcript of his remarks:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everyone. Doc, thank you. Your heroism in treating the wounded children in Uvalde, many of whom you’ve known their whole lives — their whole lives — and treated them with normal child problems as a pediatrician, it’s something we’ll never forget.
And, Garnell, it’s good to see you again. I know how tough it is. A lot of people in here have been victims of gun violence — lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives. They understand your pain. And every time you stand up to talk about it, even for a good cause, it brings it all back like it happened yesterday. But thank you for the courage to do it.
Jill and I will never forget the time we spent with you and your families.
And I want to thank — thank the Vice President Harris and the Second Gentleman; and members of the Cabinet, eight of whom are here today; as well as mayors and elected officials from across the country.
I want to particularly thank the Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Highland Park for being here. We’ve had — (applause) — no, I mean it sincerely. We had a number of conversations immediately after the attack in Highland Park. And I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve handled things. It’s been extraordinary. And as the three of us have discussed, we have more to do.
I also want to thank the bipartisan group of senators who worked so hard to get this done, especially Senators Murphy — (applause); Sinema — (applause); Cornyn and Tillis. (Applause.) I hope it doesn’t get you in trouble mentioning your name. Thank you for the courage.
As well as all of the members of Congress who have worked on these issues for a long time, 80 of whom are with us today. (Applause.)
And I’m sorry Senators Schumer and Blumenthal can’t be here today, but they’re working from home, overcoming mild cases of COVID.
I know how hard it is to get things done because I know how hard it was to write the first gun legislation — at least the first from my career — that was passed nearly 30 years ago. That’s how long ago it was.
And as I look out in this crowd, I see so many advocates and families, many of whom have become friends, whose lives have been shattered by gun violence and who have made it their purpose to save other lives.
I’ve spent so much time with so many of you over the years that we’ve actually become personal friends. And I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to continue to fight for other families.
Nothing can bring back your loved ones, but you did it to make sure that other families don’t have to experience the same loss and pain that you’ve experienced.
And you have felt and you feel the price of inaction, that this has taken too long, with too much of a trail of bloodshed and carnage. And I know public policy can seem remote, technical, and distant from our everyday lives. But because of your work, your advocacy, your courage, lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this. (Applause.)
What we are doing here today is real, it’s vivid, it’s relevant. The action we take today is a step designed to make our nation the kind of nation we should be. It’s about the most fundamental of things — the lives of our children, of our loved ones.
We face, literally, a moral choice in this country — a moral choice with profound, real-world implications.
Will we take wise steps to fulfill the responsibility to protect the innocent and while keeping faith with constitutional rights?
Will we match thoughts and prayers with action?
I say yes. (Applause.) And that’s what we’re doing here today. (Applause.)
Today is many things. It’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have to do more than that!
THE PRESIDENT: Because make no mistake — sit down. You’ll hear what I have to say if you think —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have to do more than that!
THE PRESIDENT: You —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have to open an office in the White House. (Inaudible.) I’ve been trying to tell you this for years. (Inaudible.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: President Biden! Yeah! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: We have one. Let me finish my comments.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let him talk. Let him talk. No one — okay?
Because make no mistake about it: This legislation is real progress, but more has to be done. The provision of this new legislation is going to save lives. And it’s proof that in today’s politics we can come together on a bipartisan basis to get important things done, even on an issue as tough as guns.
And one more thing: It’s a call to action to all of us to do more — (applause) — to take away from the legislation, it is not — that’s not what we can do. It’s to take the — the take-away from this is that now — now we’re opening to get much more done.
Senator Murphy has said: When you look at the biggest social issues America has faced throughout our history, quote, “Success begets success.” And that’s when you, quote, “finally move that mountain.” You can — you can ignite a movement when you do that for more progress to follow.
We have finally moved that mountain — a mountain of opposition, obstruction, and indifference that has stood in the way and stopped every effort at gun safety for 30 years in this nation. (Applause.)
And now is the time to galvanize this movement, because that’s our duty to the people of this nation.
That’s what we owe those families in Buffalo, where a grocery store became a killing field.
It’s what we owe those families in Uvalde, where an elementary school became a killing field.
That’s what we owe those families in Highland Park, where, on July 4th, a parade became a killing field.
And that’s what we owe all those families represented here today and all over this country the past many years, across our schools, places of worship, workplaces, stores, music festivals, nightclubs, and so many other everyday places that have turned into killing fields.
And that’s what we owe the families all across this nation where, every day, tragic killings that don’t make the headlines are more than passing mention — a little more than passing mention in the local news. (Applause.)
Neighborhoods and streets have been turned into killing fields as well.
Today’s legislation is an important start. And here are the key things that it does: It provides $750 million in crisis intervention and red-flag laws so the parent, a teacher, a counselor can flag for the court that a child, a student, a patient is exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening classmates, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that makes them a danger to themselves and to others.
Fort Hood, Texas, 2009: 13 dead, 30 more injured.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 1918 : 17 dead, 17 injured.
In both places, countless others suffering with invisible wounds.
In both places, red-flag laws could have stopped both those shooters. (Applause.)
You know, this new law requiring — requires young people under 21 to [under]go enhanced background checks before purchasing a gun.
How many more mass shootings do we have to see where a shooter is 17, 18 years old and able to get his hands on a weapon and go on a killing spree?
You know, it closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” If you’re convicted of assault against your girlfriend or boy- — you can’t buy a gun. You can’t do it. (Applause.)
According to a recent study, in over 50 percent of mass shootings, the shooter shot a family member or a partner.
So if we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, we can save the lives of their partners, and we can also stop more mass shootings.
One, this law includes the first-ever federal law that makes gun trafficking and straw purchases explicit federal crimes. (Applause.)
It clarifies who needs to register as a federally licensed gun dealer and run background checks before selling a single weapon. (Applause.)
It invests in anti-violence programs that work directly with the communities most at risk for gun crimes. (Applause.)
And this law also provides funding vital for funding to address the youth mental health crisis in this country — (applause) — including the trauma experienced by the survivors of gun violence.
It will not save every life from the epidemic of gun violence, but if this law had been in place years ago, even this last year, lives would have been saved.
It matters. It matters. But it’s not enough, and we all know that.
In preparation for today’s signing, I asked to send me their story — people to send me their stories about their experience with gun violence. I received over 2,500 responses in 24 hours. I didn’t get to read them all, but I read some.
A 17-year-old wrote me saying, quote, “A school shooting sophomore year shattered every sense of normalcy I’ve ever felt. Almost three years later, I still have nightmares.”
A 24-year-old wrote about growing up in what was a, quote, “seemingly endless era of gun violence.”
A 40-year-old wrote me about two friends shot and killed by abusive partners and former partners.
Someone else wrote me about a 6-year-old child who was sitting near his father’s coffin, was asking, quote, “Why is Daddy in that scary box? Wake up, Daddy. Wake up Daddy.” His father had been gunned down.
I read these stories and so many others. So many others. And, you know, I see the statistics. Over 40,000 people died from gunshot wounds last year in the United States, 25,000 by suicide.
I think: Can this really be the United States of America? Why has it come to this? We all know a lot of the reasons: gun lobby, gun manufacturers, special interest money, the rise of hyper-partisan tribal politics in the country where we don’t debate the issues on the merits and we just rather turn on each other from our corners and attack the other side.
Regardless, we’re living in a country awash in weapons of war — weapons that weren’t designed to hunt are not being used — the weapons designed that they’re purchasing are designed as weapons of war to take out an enemy.
What is the rationale for these weapons outside war zones? Some people claim it’s for sport or to hunt. But let’s look at the facts: The most common rounds fired from an AR-15 move almost twice as fast as that from a handgun. Coupled with smaller, lighter bullets, these weapons maximize the damage done coupled with those bullets, and human flesh and bone is just torn apart.
And as difficult as it is to say, that’s why so many people and some in this audience — and I apologize for having to say it — need to provide DNA samples to identify the remains of their children. Think of that.
It’s why trauma surgeons who train for years for these moments know it’s unlikely that someone shot with a high-powered assault weapon will make it long enough for the ambulance to get them to the hospital.
It’s why these scenes of destruction are resembling nothing like a weekend hunting trip for deer or elk.
And yet, we continue to let these weapons be sold to people with no training or expertise.
Case in point: America has the finest fighting force in the world. We provide our service members with the most lethal weapons on Earth to protect America.
We also require them to receive significant training before they’re allowed to use these weapons.
We require extensive background checks on them and mental health assessments on them. (Applause.)
We require that they learn how to lock up and store these weapons responsibly. (Applause.)
We require our military to do all that. These are commonsense requirements. But we don’t require the same commonsense measures for a stranger walking into a gun store to purchase an AR-15 or some weapon like that.
It makes no sense. Assault weapons need to be banned. They were banned. (Applause.) I led the fight in 1994. And then, under pressure from the NRA and the gun manufacturers and others, that ban was lifted in 2004.
In that 10 years it was law, mass shootings went down. When the law expired in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled.
They’re the facts. I’m determined to ban these weapons again and high-capacity magazines — (applause) — that hold 30 rounds and that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes. I’m not going to stop until we do it.
Here’s another thing we should do: We should have safe storage laws, requiring personal liability for not locking up your gun. (Applause.)
The shooter in Sandy Hook came from a home full of guns and assault weapons that were too easy to access — weapons he used to kill his mother and then murder 26 people, including 20 innocent first graders.
If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it and keep it under lock and key. (Applause.)
Responsible gun owners agree: No one else should have access to it, so lock it up, have trigger locks. And if you don’t and something bad happens, you should be held responsible. (Applause.)
I have four shotguns; two are mine and two are my deceased son’s. They’re locked up, lock and key. Every responsible gun owner that I know does that.
We should expand background checks to better keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives, and those under domestic violence restraining orders. (Applause.)
Expanded background checks are something that the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, agree on.
My fellow Americans, none of what I’m talking about infringes on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.
I’ve said it many times: I support the Second Amendment.
But when guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America — let me say that again — guns are the number one killer of children in the United States. More than car accidents. More than cancer. And over the last two decades, more high-school [school-age] children have died from gun shots than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think of that. Then we can’t just stand by. We can’t let it happen any longer.
With rights come responsibilities.
Yes, there’s a right to bear arms, but we also have the right to live freely — (applause) — without fear for our lives in a grocery store, in a classroom, on a playground, at a house of worship, in a store, at a workplace, a nightclub, a festival, in our neighborhoods and our streets. (Applause.)
The right to bear arms is not an absolute right that dominates all others.
The perennial price for living in a community with others is being neighbors, of being fellow citizens, is that we obey the laws and customs that ensure what that Fra- — what the Framers called “domestic tranquility.”
That’s what civilization is. That’s what we have been at our best. That’s what America must always be: a place where we preserve the rights but fulfill our responsibilities.
I know this: There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our families, our children, and our fellow Americans.
When I spoke to the nation after Uvalde, I shared how a grandmother who had lost her granddaughter gave me and Jill a handwritten letter. We spent four hours, almost five hours with her.
And I read it. It reads, quote, “Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation to come up with a solution and fix what is broken and to make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again.” End of quote.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here.
Today, I want to thank those in Congress, both Democrat and Republicans, who erased that invisible line dividing our nation and moved us forward on gun safety.
It’s an important step. (Applause.) And now we must look forward. We have so much more work to do.
And I might add, there is $75 million in there for mental health reasons — a whole range of other things I’m not going to take time to go into today, but it’s important. (Applause.)
May God bless all of us with the strength to finish the work left undone and — on behalf of the lives we’ve lost and the lives we can save.
May God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. (Applause.)
After a spate of mass shootings that made the headlines – Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa – President Joe Biden addressed the nation to appeal, to demand Congress act to reduce America’s unique public health epidemic of gun violence. Even as he spoke, there were additional mass shootings – more than one each and every day. More than 100 Americans are killed each day from gun violence – just since 1968, almost twice the number, nearly 2 million, than have died in all of America’s wars going back to the Revolution, 1 million. “My fellow Americans, enough. Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act,” he said, offering an agenda, a to-do list of what has to be done to at least reduce the carnage.
Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:
On Memorial Day this past Monday, Jill and I visited Arlington National Cemetery.
As we entered those hallowed grounds, we saw rows and rows of crosses among the rows of headstones, with other emblems of belief, honoring those who paid the ultimate price on battlefields around the world.
The day before, we visited Uvalde — Uvalde, Texas. In front of Robb Elementary School, we stood before 21 crosses for 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers. On each cross, a name. And nearby, a photo of each victim that Jill and I reached out to touch. Innocent victims, murdered in a classroom that had been turned into a killing field.
Standing there in that small town, like so many other communities across America, I couldn’t help but think there are too many other schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America.
We stood at such a place just 12 days before, across from a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, memorializing 10 fellow Americans — a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling — gone forever.
At both places, we spent hours with hundreds of family members who were broken and whose lives will never be the same. And they had one message for all of us:
Do something. Just do something. For God’s sake, do something.
After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done.
This time, that can’t be true. This time, we must actually do something.
The issue we face is one of conscience and common sense.
For so many of you at home, I want to be very clear: This is not about taking away anyone’s guns. It’s not about vilifying gun owners. In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave. I respect the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners.
At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute. It was Justice Scalia who wrote, and I quote, “Like most rights, the right…” — Second Amendment — the rights granted by the Second Amendment are “not unlimited.” Not unlimited. It never has been.
There have always been limitations on what weapons you can own in America. For example, machine guns have been federally regulated for nearly 90 years. And this is still a free country.
This isn’t about taking away anyone’s rights. It’s about protecting children. It’s about protecting families. It’s about protecting whole communities. It’s about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, and to a church without being shot and killed.
According to new data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America. The number one killer. More than car accidents. More than cancer.
Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns.
For God’s sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say “enough”? Enough.
I know that we can’t prevent every tragedy. But here’s what I believe we have to do. Here’s what the overwhelming majority of the American people believe we must do. Here’s what the families in Buffalo and Uvalde, in Texas, told us we must do.
We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21.
Strengthen background checks.
Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws.
Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability.
Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence.
These are rational, commonsense measures. And here’s what it all means. It all means this:
We should reinstate the assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazines that we passed in 1994 with bipartisan support in Congress and the support of law enforcement. Nine categories of semi-automatic weapons were included in that ban, like AK-47s and AR-15s.
And in the 10 years it was law, mass shootings went down. But after Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled. Those are the facts.
A few years ago, the family of the inventor of the AR-15 said he would have been horrified to know that its design was being used to slaughter children and other innocent lives instead of being used as a military weapon on the battlefields, as it was designed — that’s what it was designed for.
We should limit how many rounds a weapon can hold. Why in God’s name should an ordinary citizen be able to purchase an assault weapon that holds 30-round magazines that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes?
The damage was so devastating in Uvalde, parents had to do DNA swabs to identify the remains of their children — 9- and 10-year-old children.
We should expand background checks to keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives, and those under restraining orders.
Stronger background checks are something that the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, agree on.
I also believe we should have safe storage laws and personal liability for not locking up your gun.
The shooter in Sandy Hook came from a home full of guns that were too easy to access. That’s how he got the weapons — the weapon he used to kill his mother and then murder 26 people, including 20 first graders.
If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it — every responsible gun owner agrees — to make sure no one else can have access to it, to lock it up, to have trigger locks. And if you don’t and something bad happens, you should be held responsible.
We should also have national red-flag laws so that a parent, a teacher, a counselor can flag for a court that a child, a student, a patient is exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening classmates, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that makes them a danger to themselves or to others.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws. The Delaware law is named after my son, Attorney General Beau Biden.
Fort Hood, Texas, 2009 — 13 dead and more than 30 injured.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 2018 — 17 dead, 17 injured.
In both places, countless others suffering with invisible wounds.
Red-flag laws could have stopped both these shooters.
In Uvalde, the shooter was 17 when he asked his sister to buy him an assault weapon, knowing he’d be denied because he was too young to purchase one himself. She refused.
But as soon as he turned 18, he purchased two assault weapons for himself. Because in Texas, you can be 18 years old and buy an assault weapon even though you can’t buy a pistol in Texas until you’re 21.
If we can’t ban assault weapons, as we should, we must at least raise the age to be able to purchase one to 21.
Look, I know some folks will say, “18-year-olds can serve in the military and fire those weapons.” But that’s with training and supervision by the best-trained experts in the world. Don’t tell me raising the age won’t make a difference.
We should repeal the liability shield that often protects gun manufacturers from being sued for the death and destruction caused by their weapons. They’re the only industry in this country that has that kind of immunity.
Imagine — imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued — where we’d be today. The gun industry’s special protections are outrageous. It must end.
And let there be no mistake about the psychological trauma that gun violence leaves behind.
Imagine being that little girl — that brave little girl in Uvalde who smeared the blood off her murdered friend’s body onto her own face to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive. Imagine — imagine what it would it be like for her to walk down the hallway of any school again.
Imagine what it’s like for children who experience this kind of trauma every day in school, in the streets, in communities all across America.
Imagine what it is like for so many parents to hug their children goodbye in the morning, not sure whether they’ll come back home.
Unfortunately, too many people don’t have to imagine that at all.
Even before the pandemic, young people were already hurting. There’s a serious youth mental health crisis in this country, and we have to do something about it.
That’s why mental health is at the heart of my Unity Agenda that I laid out in the State of the Union Address this year.
We must provide more school counselors, more school nurses, more mental health services for students and for teachers, more people volunteering as mentors to help young people succeed, more privacy protection and resources to keep kids safe from the harms of social media.
This Unity Agenda won’t fully heal the wounded souls, but it will help. It matters.
I just told you what I’d do. The question now is: What will the Congress do?
The House of Representatives has already passed key measures we need. Expanding background checks to cover nearly all gun sales, including at gun shows and online sales. Getting rid of the loophole that allows a gun sale to go through after three business days even if the background check has not been completed.
And the House is planning even more action next week. Safe storage requirements. The banning of high-capacity magazines. Raising the age to buy an assault weapon to 21. Federal red-flag law. Codifying my ban on ghost guns that don’t have serial numbers and can’t be traced. And tougher laws to prevent gun trafficking and straw purchases.
This time, we have to take the time to do something. And this time, it’s time for the Senate to do something.
But, as we know, in order to get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators.
I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way. But my God, the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable.
We can’t fail the American people again.
Since Uvalde, just over a week ago, there have been 20 other mass shootings in America, each with four or more people killed or injured, including yesterday at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A shooter deliberately targeted a surgeon using an assault weapon he bought just a few hours before his rampage that left the surgeon, another doctor, a receptionist, and a patient dead, and many more injured.
That doesn’t countthe carnage we see every single day that doesn’t make the headlines.
I’ve been in this fight for a long time. I know how hard it is, but I’ll never give up. And if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up either. I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.
Enough. Enough. Enough.
Over the next 17 days, the families in Uvalde will continue burying their dead.
It will take that long in part because it’s a town where everyone knows everyone, and day by day they will honor each one they lost.
Jill and I met with the owner and staff of the funeral home that is being strong — strong, strong, strong — to take care of their own.
And the people of Uvalde mourn. As they do over the next 17 days, what will we be doing as a nation?
Jill and I met with the sister of the teacher who was murdered and whose husband died of a heart attack two days later, leaving behind four beautiful, orphaned children — and all now orphaned. The sister asked us: What could she say? What could she tell her nieces and nephews?
It was one of the most heartbreaking moments that I can remember. All I could think to say was — I told her to hold them tight. Hold them tight.
After visiting the school, we attended mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with Father Eddie.
In the pews, families and friends held each other tightly. As Archbishop Gustavo spoke, he asked the children in attendance to come up on the altar and sit on the altar with him as he spoke.
There wasn’t enough room, so a mom and her young son sat next to Jill and me in the first pew. And as we left the church, a grandmother who had just lost her granddaughter passed me a handwritten letter.
It read, quote, “Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation. Come up with a solution and fix what’s broken and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again.” End of quote.
My fellow Americans, enough. Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act.
For the children we’ve lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love, let’s hear the call and the cry. Let’s meet the moment. Let us finally do something.
God bless the families who are hurting. God bless you all.
From a hymn based on the 91st Psalm sung in my church:
May He raise you up on eagle’s wings and bear you on the breath of dawn make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.
The White House issued fact sheets detailing the executive actions the Biden Administration announced on April 7 to address the gun violence, along with a whole-of-government response to the public health epidemic of gun violence, including regulating ghost guns, pistols enhanced with braces, incentivizing states to implement Red Flag laws, and launching community-based anti-violence programs. At the same time, President Joe Biden called upon Congress to pass universal background checks, ending gun manufacturers’ immunity, and issuing a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.
The recent high-profile mass shootings in Boulder – taking the lives of 10 individuals – and Atlanta – taking the lives of eight individuals, including six Asian American women – underscored the relentlessness of this epidemic. Gun violence takes lives and leaves a lasting legacy of trauma in communities every single day in this country, even when it is not on the nightly news. In fact, cities across the country are in the midst of a historic spike in homicides, violence that disproportionately impacts Black and brown Americans. The President is committed to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence – community violence, mass shootings, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm and detailed a whole-of-government response.
Meanwhile, President Biden reiterated his call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence. Last month, a bipartisan coalition in the House passed two bills to close loopholes in the gun background check system. Congress should close those loopholes and go further, including by closing “boyfriend” and stalking loopholes that currently allow people found by the courts to be abusers to possess firearms, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and investing in evidence-based community violence interventions. Congress should also pass an appropriate national “red flag” law, as well as legislation incentivizing states to pass “red flag” laws of their own.
“But this Administration will not wait for Congress to act to take its own steps – fully within the Administration’s authority and the Second Amendment – to save lives.” The Administration announced the following six initial actions:
The Justice Department, within 30 days, will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns.” We are experiencing a growing problem: criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes. When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number. The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these firearms.
The Justice Department, within 60 days, will issue a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. The alleged shooter in the Boulder tragedy last month appears to have used a pistol with an arm brace, which can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable.
The Justice Department, within 60 days, will publish model “red flag” legislation for states. Red flag laws allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others. The President urges Congress to pass an appropriate national “red flag” law, as well as legislation incentivizing states to pass “red flag” laws of their own. In the interim, the Justice Department’s published model legislation will make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so.
The Administration is investing in evidence-based community violence interventions. Community violence interventions are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities through tools other than incarceration. Because cities across the country are experiencing a historic spike in homicides, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking a number of steps to prioritize investment in community violence interventions.
The American Jobs Plan proposes a $5 billion investment over eight years to support community violence intervention programs. A key part of community violence intervention strategies is to help connect individuals to job training and job opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is organizing a webinar and toolkit to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions.
Five federal agencies are making changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible. These changes mean we can start increasing investments in community violence interventions as we wait on Congress to appropriate additional funds.
The Justice Department will issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. In 2000, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) issued a report summarizing information regarding its investigations into firearms trafficking, which is one way firearms are diverted into the illegal market where they can easily end up in the hands of dangerous individuals. Since the report’s publication, states, local, and federal policymakers have relied on its data to better thwart the common channels of firearms trafficking. But there is good reason to believe that firearms trafficking channels have changed since 2000, for example due to the emergence of online sales and proliferation of “ghost guns.” The Justice Department will issue a new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking and annual updates necessary to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking today.
The President will nominate David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. ATF is the key agency enforcing our gun laws, and it needs a confirmed director in order to do the job to the best of its ability. But ATF has not had a confirmed director since 2015. Chipman served at ATF for 25 years and now works to advance commonsense gun safety laws.
Details on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investments in Community Violence Interventions
Cities across the country are experiencing a historic spike in homicides, violence that is greatest in racially segregated, high-poverty neighborhoods. Black men make up 6% of the population but over 50% of gun homicide victims. Black women, Latinos, and Native Americans are also disproportionately impacted. The loss of life has devasting consequences for family members and cascading harms for communities. As just one example, research shows that exposure to firearm violence—including as a victim or witness—makes it twice as likely an adolescent will commit a violent act within two years.
But there is reason to be optimistic. We know that a relatively small number of people are involved in urban gun violence, whether as perpetrators or victims. There are proven community violence intervention (CVI) strategies for reducing gun violence through tools other than incarceration. For example, violence interruption programs deploy trusted messengers work directly with individuals most likely to commit gun violence, intervene in conflicts, and connect people to social and economic services to reduce the likelihood of gun violence as an answer. Hospital-based violence interventions engage people who have been shot while they are still in the hospital, connecting them to services to decrease the likelihood that they commit gun violence or are victimized in the future. Programs like these have reduced homicides by as much as 60% in areas where they are implemented.
To date, CVI programs have been badly underfunded, even though the economic consequences of gun violence are staggering. One study calculates that gun violence costs America $280 billion annually. For fraction of that cost, we can save lives, create safe and healthy communities, and build an economy that works for all of us.
As part of a package of initial actions to reduce gun violence, the Biden-Harris Administration announces historic investments in community violence intervention to combat the gun violence epidemic.
American Jobs Plan: President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, unveiled last week, calls on Congress to invest $5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence intervention programs that train at-risk individuals for jobs and provide other wraparound services to prevent violence and assist victims. These strategies will help rebuild economies in the hardest hit areas.
Medicaid Funding: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is organizing a webinar and toolkit to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions Leveraging Existing Grant Programs: Five agencies are making changes to existing federal funding streams across 26 programs to direct vital support to CVI programs quickly as possible. For example:
The Department of Justice will give priority to applicants proposing CVI strategies in its Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention and Reductions Programs, a $11 million competitive grant that provides funding for programs that prevent and reduce youth violence. The solicitation will post by the end of April 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
The Department of Justice will develop guidance to clarify that states can use their allocations from annual Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding—including over $1 billion in FY21—for CVI efforts and will provide training and technical assistance on CVI to grantees.
The National Institutes of Health will prioritize community-based intervention research for its Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research grant awards. These programs will provide $12.5 million to improve understanding of the determinants of firearm injury, those most at risk (including both victims and perpetrators), and strategies to prevent firearm injury and mortality. Applications are due April 30, 2021, with awards expected in September 2021.
DOJ will issue guidance to raise awareness that the $18.9 million under its FY21 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) program is available to support CVI efforts. This solicitation was posted on January 11, 2021, and its deadlines are April 26, 2021 on Grants.gov and May 10, 2021 on JustGrants.
DOJ will include CVI as a topic area in its FY21 Community Policing Development (CPD) Micro-Grants, a $3 million program that supports innovative community policing strategies. The solicitation will be posted by April 15, 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will make CVI a priority focus area in its FY21 Cops Hiring Program, a $156 million competitive grant program that funds entry-level law enforcement officers. Law enforcement agencies that partner with community organizations to implement community violence intervention strategies will receive preference points in the scoring of applications. The solicitation will be posted by the end of April 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will give priority to applicants proposing CVI strategies in its FY21 Smart Policing program, which provides $8 million in funding, training, and technical assistance for law enforcement to use data and technology to respond to crime. The solicitation will post by April 30, 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will issue guidance to clarify that community-based organizations with CVI proposals are eligible for the $12.75 million Second Chance Act Community-Based Reentry Program. This solicitation was posted on January 14, 2021, and its deadlines are April 13, 2021 on Grants.gov and April 27, 2021 on JustGrants.
DOJ will make clear to all judicial districts that they can support CVI programs through Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) funding and technical assistance. PSN is designed to make neighborhoods safer through a sustained reduction in violent crime. The solicitation will post by April 30, 2021 and the awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will support CVI through its FY21 Strategies to Support Children Exposed to Violence program, a $7 million program that provides funding, training, and technical assistance to communities to address children’s exposure to violence and prevent gun violence. Priority will be given to CVI applicants and technical assistance providers addressing youth violence. The solicitation will post by the end of April 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will continue to uplift CVI programs via webinars and trainings through the National Gang Center. The National Gang Center will expand its outreach efforts to interested communities about evidence-based models, such as the Comprehensive Gang Model that includes street outreach and violence interrupters.
DOJ will support CVI in its FY21 School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP), a $53 million competitive grant program that funds equipment, technology, and training to address school violence. Applicants that have experienced high rates of gun violence will receive priority, with an emphasis on wraparound services for students most likely to engage in or be victimized by gun violence. The solicitation will be posted by April 15, 2021 and awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will support CVI through its FY21 Hospital-Based Victim Services program, a $2 million funding stream for programs that link the victim services field and medical facilities. The solicitation will post by the end of April 2021 and the awards will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ will support CVI through the Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) new Center for Culturally Responsive Victim Services program, which will provide $3 million to an organization to launch a national resource to improve trauma-informed, victim-centered services in communities of color. The solicitation will post by the end of April 2021 and the award will be made by September 30, 2021.
DOJ OVC will release guidance to clarify that the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Assistance Rule does not prevent states from using VOCA funding—over $1 billion in FY21—for CVI efforts. The guidance will also inform states that funding CVI programs is a means to meet VOCA’s requirement that 10% of funds go toward serving underserved communities. In addition, OVC’s Training and Technical Center (OVC TTAC) and its new Center for VOCA Administrators (VOCA Center) will to provide assistance around CVI strategies.
Department of Health and Human Services
The National Institutes of Health published two opportunities for Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research in March, PAR-21-191 and PAR-21-192. These programs will provide $12.5 million to improve understanding of the determinants of firearm injury, those most at risk, and interventions that prevent firearm injury and mortality. For grant applications with comparable scientific merit, NIH will prioritize applications about CVI. Applications are due April 30, 2021, with awards expected in September 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a notice of funding opportunity in March for Preventing Violence Affecting Young Lives (PREVAYL), a program that addresses violence impacting adolescent and young adults. CDC anticipates awarding $10 million over 5 years. CDC will highlight CVI strategies in an April 8 informational call, through guidance, and on its website. Applications are due May 1, 2021, with awards expected by August 2021.
CDC has an open funding opportunity announcement for its National Centers of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention (Youth Violence Prevention Centers or YVPCs) program, which builds the evidence base for strategies like CVI that reduce rates of youth violence within geographic communities. CDC anticipates awarding $30 million over 5 years. Applications are due April 21, 2021, with awards expected in September.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD will encourage applicants for the FY21 Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a $200 million competitive place-based grant program that transforms underserved neighborhoods, to include CVI as part of their overall public safety strategy to reduce crime. HUD will discuss the importance of CVI in the notice of funding announcement and in grantee resources.
HUD will encourage grantees of Community Development Block Grant – CV Funds (CDBG-CV), who received a special appropriation of $5 billion through the CARES Act, to use part of their allocations to support CVI efforts needed to combat violence as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. HUD will publish a guide by June that explains how CVI activities can use CDBG funds, which will also apply to annual formula CDBG funds—approximately $3.4 billion per year.
Department of Education
ED will issue guidance on how grantees can use 21st Century Learning Centers (21st CCLC) funds to support children impacted by trauma and reengage disconnected youth. 21st CCLC provides $1.26 billion for community learning centers with after-school and summer programs for students in high-poverty and underperforming schools. New awards will be made July 1, 2021.
ED will support states and school districts in investing Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) funds toward CVI activities via a guidance document and technical assistance. SSAE is a $1.22 billion program that boosts academic achievement by improving learning conditions. New awards will be made July 1, 2021.
ED will launch a new competition in FY22 for Project Prevent, an $11 million program that helps schools increase their capacity to identify and serve students who have been exposed to pervasive violence by expanding access to counseling and conflict-resolution strategies.
ED will incentivize applicants to use CVI-focused strategies in two grant competitions for FY22: Full Service Community Schools and Promise Neighborhoods. Full-Service Community Schools supports partnerships between schools and community-based organizations to offer academic and social services for students in high-poverty communities. Promise Neighborhoods supports coordinated community pipeline services to improve educational outcomes in the most underserved neighborhoods.
Department of Labor
DOL will issue guidance to state and local workforce agencies and nonprofits under its Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs, encouraging grantees to incorporate CVI into their activities. WIOA provides $3.5 billion in formula and discretionary grants to support employment and training programs for low-income adults, disadvantaged youth, and dislocated workers. YouthBuild, a WIOA discretionary program, provides $89 million annually for pre-apprenticeship programs for at-risk youth, including youth who are formerly incarcerated.
DOL will make CVI an allowable grant activity in Program Year 2021 (July 2021-June 2022) for its Young Adult Reentry Partnership grants, $25 million for organizations providing education and employment training to young adults who left high school before graduation or have had justice system involvement. The grants prepare participants who reside in high-poverty and high-crime communities—those disproportionately impacted by gun violence—for stable, quality employment. The funding opportunity announcement will be posted in early 2022.
The culture war revolving around “gun rights” (as if the 2nd Amendment did not already specify “well regulated” and “militia” – that is, to protect the state in the absence of a standing army) suggests fear of a tyrannical government. But the focus on unlimited, unfettered, unregulated guns everywhere while blaming “mental illness” after the fact suggests an even more dangerous role for government, in deciding pre-crime who will likely be a murderer. But the government can’t be responsible for anticipating who or when someone will snap. The only common denominator to the 100 deaths each day, 300 injured each day possibly for life, this epidemic of gun violence, this “international embarrassment” that costs $280 billion a year in death, prosecution, imprisonment, health care, lost productivity is the obscene availability of guns, ghost guns, and assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, weapons manufactured for war whose only purpose is large scale murder of people.
President Joe Biden has had enough, and offered six initial steps while pleading with the Senate to pass the already-passed House measures for universal background checks. One of them, that he actually said was his highest priority, was ending the immunity from liability that the $1 billion gun manufacturing industry has, the only industry that has such immunity. He should have added that the federal government will require every gun it purchases – for military, for law enforcement including grants it makes to local police departments – have Smart technology.
Besides the emotional trauma and tragedy, President Biden also put gun violence epidemic into economic terms that Republicans might appreciate more: Gun violence in America costs the nation $280 billion a year – hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs, and the loss of productivity.” And for those Republicans who all of a sudden are so gravely concerned about the trauma of children not being able to attend school in person, he noted, “the psychological damage done to the children who live in these cities, watching this happen, knowing someone it happened to.” Except that children will eventually go back to school once the coronavirus pandemic is under control; they will never get back their parent or sibling.
“This gun violence in our neighborhood is having a profound impact on our children, even if they’re never involved in pulling the trigger or being the victim of — on the other side of a trigger.
“For a fraction of the cost of gun violence, we can save lives, create safe and healthy communities, and build economies that work for all of us, and save billions of American dollars.”
President Biden also called for:
Reining in ghost guns
Require Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to prepare a report on its investigations into firearms trafficking in America annually
Make pistols modified with stabilizing braces subject to the National Firearms Act, subject to taxation and registration
Expand state adoption of extreme risk protection order laws, known as “red flag” laws; instruct the Department of Justice to issue model legislation. This would reduce dramatically the number of suicides (half are by guns); and murders of women by domestic partners (53 women are shot dead each month), and cut down on mass murders by mentally unstable individuals who just snap.
Recognizing historic spikes in homicide rates in cities across the country, proposing to fund community programs to address violence.
Name a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, which hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015; nominating David Chipman who worked at ATF for 25 years.
“My job, the job of any President, is to protect the American people. Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as President to keep the American people safe from gun violence. But there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort. And they can do it right now.
“They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers — members of Congress — but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
He urged the Senate to immediately pass three House-passed bills to close loopholes that allow gun purchases — purchasers to bypass the background checks: require background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or an online sale; close the “Charleston loophole” which limits the FBI’s background check timeline to three days (initiated under AG Ashcroft in the George Bush administration); and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
He also called for a new ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines(Biden sponsored the passage of the last one, in effect 1994-2004, as Senator)
“There’s no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 rounds, 100 bullets that can be fired from that weapon. Nobody needs that. Nobody needs that.”
“Everything that’s being proposed today is totally consistent with the Second Amendment. And there’s a wide consensus behind the need to take action.
“I know that when overwhelming majorities of Americans want to see something change that will affect their lives and it still doesn’t change, it can be demoralizing to our fellow citizens. It can feel like our entire political process is broken.
“No matter how long it takes, we’re going to get these passed. We’re not going to give up. We have an opportunity to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to keep our people safe. And in the process, we can show the world and show ourselves that democracy works, that we can come together and get big things done.”
Here is an edited, highlighted version of President Biden’s remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday, April 8:
We’re joined today by the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, who I’ve asked to prioritize gun violence. It’s also good to see the Second Gentleman, who is here. And it’s good to see the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, who cares deeply about this issue as well.
And I look out there and I see so many members of Congress who have led in this fight. So many of you who have never given up. So many of you who are absolutely determined, as Murph and others are, to get this done.
We got a long way to go. It always seems like we always have a long way to go. But I also — today, we’re taking steps to confront not just the gun crisis, but what is actually a public health crisis. Nothing — nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment. They’re phony, arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake from what we’re talking about.
But no amendment — no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech.From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning that the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons. So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution.
Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. Let me say it again: Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment. (Applause.)
You know, we saw that again. Last night, as I was coming to the Oval office, I got the word that, in South Carolina, a physician with his wife, two grandchildren, and a person working at his house was gunned down — all five. So many people — so many of the people sitting here today know that well, unfortunately. You know, they know what it’s like when the seconds change your life forever.
I have had the — the pleasure of getting to meet, in awful circumstances, many of you — many of you who’ve lost your children, your husbands, your wives. You know, they know what it’s like to bury a piece of their soul deep in the Earth. We understand that.
Mark and Jackie, I want to tell you: It’s always good to see you, but not under these circumstances.
I want to say, before I introduce the rest of the folks, is, you know, what — a lot of people have not been through what they’ve been through — don’t understand. It takes a lot of courage to come to an event like this. They’re absolutely, absolutely determined to make change.
But Mark and Jackie, whose son Daniel was a first grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Daniel loved sports — loves outdoors sports, getting muddy.
I see my friend Fred Guttenberg. His daughter, Jaime, was a freshman at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. She was an accomplished dancer.
I see Brandon Wolf, who — the shooting at the Pulse nightclub. He survived, but his two best friends died.
Greg Jackson, who was just walking down the street when he was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight.
And, of course, I see a close friend of Jill’s and mine, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is here. Who was speaking with her constituents in front a grocery store in her state when she was shot and a member of her staff was killed.
You know, they’re here, and their pain is immense. And, you know, what a lot of you — hopefully many of you — don’t know is if you’ve gone through a trauma, no matter how much you work to make sure others don’t go through it, every time you show up at an event like this, it brings back when you got that phone call. It brings back the immediacy of what happened at that moment.
So I genuinely mean it: Thank you. Thank you for having the courage to be here, the courage to continue this fight. Senator Blumenthal understands it. A lot of the folks out here understand it. But it takes real courage, so thank you.
To turn pain into purpose and demand that we take the actions that gives meaning to the word “enough.” Enough. Enough. Enough. Enough. Because what they want you to know, what they want you to do is not just listen.
Every day in this country, 316 people are shot. Every single day. A hundred and six of them die every day. Our flag was still flying at half-staff for the victims of the horrific murder of 8 primarily Asian American people in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado.
You probably didn’t hear it, but between those two incidents, less than one week apart, there were more than 850 additional shootings — 850 — that took the lives of more than 250 people, and left 500 — 500 — injured. This is an epidemic, for God’s sake. And it has to stop.
So I’m here to talk about two things: first, the steps we’re going to take immediately, and, second, the action that needs to be taken going forward to curb the epidemic of gun violence.
I asked the Attorney General and his team to identify for me immediate, concrete actions I could can take now without having to go through the Congress. And today, I’m announcing several initial steps my administration is taking to curb this epidemic of gun violence.
Much more need be done, but first, I want to rein in the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns.” These are guns that are homemade, built from a kit that include the directions on how to finish the firearm. You can go buy the kit. They have no serial numbers, so when they show up at a crime scene, they can’t be traced.
And the buyers aren’t required to pass a background check to buy the kit to make the gun. Consequently, anyone — anyone from a criminal to a terrorist can buy this kit and, in as little as 30 minutes, put together a weapon.
You know, I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act, which is going to require that the seller and manufacturers make the key parts with serial numbers and run background checks on the buyers when they walk in to buy that package.
The second action we’re going to take — back in 2000 — the year 2000, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms released a report on its investigations into firearms trafficking in America. The report was of pivotal value. It was an important tool for policymakers when I was in the Senate and beyond, at all levels, to stop firearms from being illegally diverted into dangerous hands.
Today, with online sales and ghost guns, times and trafficking methods have changed, and we have to adjust. We also have to ask the Justice Department to release a new annual report. This report will better help policymakers address firearms trafficking as it is today, not what it was yesterday.
A third change: We want to treat pistols modified with stabilizing braces with the seriousness they deserve. A stabilizing brace — you’re going to (inaudible) — essentially, it makes that pistol a hell of a lot more accurate and a mini-rifle. As a result, it’s more lethal, effectively turning into a short-barreled rifle. That’s what the alleged shooter in Boulder appears to have done.
I want to be clear that these modifications to firearms that make them more lethal should be subject to the National Firearms Act. The National Firearms Act requires that a potential owner pay a$200 fee and submit their name and other identifying information to the Justice Department, just as they would if they went out and purchased a silencer for a gun.
Fourthly, during my campaign for President, I wanted to make it easier for states to adopt extreme risk protection order laws. They’re also called “red flag” laws, which everybody on this lawn knows, but many people listening do not know. These laws allow a police or family member to petition a court in their jurisdiction and say, “I want you to temporarily remove from the following people any firearm they may possess because they’re a danger. In a crisis, they’re presenting a danger to themselves and to others.”And the court makes a ruling.
To put this in perspective, more than half of all suicides, for example, involve the use of a firearm. But when a gun is not available, an attempt at suicide — the death rate drops precipitously. States that have red flag laws have seen and — seen a reduction in the number of suicides in their states.
Every single month, by the way, an average of 53 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. It’s been a constant struggle to keep it moving. We know red flag laws can have a significant effect in protecting women from domestic violence. And we know red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans.
I’m proud — “Excuse the point of personal privilege,” as we used to say in the Senate — I’m proud that the red flag law in my home state of Delaware was named after my son, Attorney General Beau Biden — our son; excuse me, Jill — who proposed that legislation back in 2013.
I want to see a national red flag law and legislation to incentivize states to enact their own red flag laws. Today, I asked the Justice Department to publish a model red flag legislation so states can start crafting their own laws right now. Just like with background checks, the vast majority of Americans support these extreme risk protection order laws, and it’s time to put these laws on the books and protect even more people. The Attorney General will have more to say about this in a moment.
Additionally, we recognize that cities across the country are experiencing historic spikes in homicides, as the law enforcement can tell you. The violence is hitting Black and brown communities the hardest. Homicide is the leading cause of death of Black boys and men ages 15 to 34 — the leading cause of death.
But there are proven strategies that reduce gun violence in urban communities, and there are programs that have demonstrated they can reduce homicides by up to 60 percent in urban communities. But many of these have been badly underfunded or not funded at all of late.
Gun violence in America — for those of you who think of this from an economic standpoint listening to me — estimated to cost the nation $280 billion –- let me say it again — $280 billion a year. They said, “How could that be, Joe?” Hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs, and the loss of productivity. Not to mention the psychological damage done to the children who live in these cities, watching this happen, knowing someone it happened to.
This gun violence in our neighborhood is having a profound impact on our children, even if they’re never involved in pulling the trigger or being the victim of — on the other side of a trigger.
For a fraction of the cost of gun violence, we can save lives, create safe and healthy communities, and build economies that work for all of us, and save billions of American dollars.
In the meantime, much of it, as Senator Cicilline knows, is taxpayer money.
Finally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the key agency enforcing gun laws, hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015.
Today, I’m proud to nominate David Chipman to serve as the Director of the ATF. David knows the AFT well. He served there for 25 years. And Vice President Harris and I believe he’s the right person, at this moment, for this important agency.
And I’ve said before: My job, the job of any President, is to protect the American people. Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as President to keep the American people safe from gun violence. But there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort. And they can do it right now.
They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers — members of Congress — but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers. Time for some action.
I believe the Senate should immediately pass three House-passed bills to close loopholes that allow gun purchases — purchasers to bypass the background checks. The vast majority of the American people, including gun owners, believe there should be background checks before you purchase a gun.
As was noted earlier, hundreds of thousands of people have been denied guns because of the background checks. What more would have happened?
These bills, one, require background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or an online sale. (Applause.)
Most people don’t know: If you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check.
Second thing is to close what’s known as the “Charleston” loophole. Like people here, I spent time down at that church in Charleston. What happened is someone was allowed to get the gun used to kill those innocent people at a church service. If the FBI didn’t complete the background check within three days.
There’s a process. If wasn’t done in three days, according to Charleston loophole, you get to buy the gun. They bought the gun and killed a hell of a lot of innocent people who invited him to pray with them.
And three, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which — the so-called — close — (applause) — the “boyfriend” and “stalking” loopholes to keep guns out of the hands of people found by a court to be an abuser and continuing threat.
I held over a thousand hours of hearings to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and one thing came through. If, in fact, a stay-away order — an order preventing the abuser from coming in a certain distance of the person he has abused or she has abused — and now the idea that they can own a weapon when they have a court order saying they are an abuser?
These are some of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence and save lives. But all these bills, they had support of both Democrats and Republicans in the House. And universal background checks are supported by the vast majority of the American people and, I might add, the vast majority of responsible gun owners.
So let me be clear: This is not a partisan issue among the American people. This is a view by the American people as an American issue. And I’m willing to work with anyone to get these done. And it’s long past time that we act.
Now, I know this has been a hobbyhorse of mine for a long time — got it done once. We should also ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country. (Applause.)
For that 10 years we had it done, the number of mass shootings actually went down. Even law enforcement officials have told me and told other champions of this legislation they sometimes feel outgunned by assault weapons with large-capacity magazines.
There’s no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 rounds, 100 bullets that can be fired from that weapon. Nobody needs that. Nobody needs that.
We got that done when I was a United States senator. It wasn’t easy going up against the gun lobby, but it saved lives. And we should also eliminate gun manufacturers from the immunity they received from the Congress. (Applause.)
You realize — again, the people here — because they’re so knowledgeable out here in the Rose Garden. But what people don’t realize: The only industry in America — a billion-dollar industry — that can’t be sued — has exempt from being sued — are gun manufacturers.
Imagine how different it would be had that same exemption been available to tobacco companies who knew — who knew and lied about the danger they were causing — the cancer caused and the like. Imagine where we’d be.
But this is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued. If I get one thing on my list — the Lord came down and said, “Joe, you get one of these” — give me that one. (Applause.) Because I tell you what, there would be a “come to the Lord” moment these folks would have real quickly. But they’re not. They’re not. They’re exempt.
I know that the conversation about guns in this country can be a difficult one. But even here, there’s much more common ground than we — anyone would believe. There’s much more common ground.
Everything that’s being proposed today is totally consistent with the Second Amendment. And there’s a wide consensus behind the need to take action.
I know that when overwhelming majorities of Americans want to see something change that will affect their lives and it still doesn’t change, it can be demoralizing to our fellow citizens. It can feel like our entire political process is broken.
I know it’s painful and frustrating that we haven’t made the progress that we’d hoped for. But it took five years to get the Brady bill passed, and it took even more years to work to pass the assault weapons ban. And it saved lives.
No matter how long it takes, we’re going to get these passed. We’re not going to give up. We have an opportunity to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to keep our people safe. And in the process, we can show the world and show ourselves that democracy works, that we can come together and get big things done.
When I look around and see such brave survivors sitting out here in the Rose Garden, public servants who devoted their lives to dealing with this, advocates who feel strongly and are pushing every day to make the rational changes, and courageous parents and family members, I know that progress, even in this most difficult of issues, is possible.
So, folks, this is just the start. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But I know almost every one of you sitting in the garden here; none of you have ever given up. We’re not going to give up now.
The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as nation.
Let me say to all of you: God bless you, but most importantly, the memory of all many of you have lost to this senseless gun violence.
All the Democratic candidates for 2020 have strong stands
on gun safety regulations they would implement to reduce the sick, tragic
epidemic of gun violence.
Beto O’Rourke had his break-out moment at the third
Democratic Debate, in Houston no less, forcefully declaring, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re
not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore. If the
high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything
inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed
to death on a battlefield … when we see that being used against children.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar was joined at the Democratic Debate in Houston by gun safety activists from across the country and following the debate, issued her detailed plan for enacting gun safety measures. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Gun violence in America has cut short far too many lives, torn families apart and plagued communities across the country. This year there has been an average of about one mass shooting a week in which three or more people have died, including the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that killed 31 people in less than 24 hours. At the same time, everyday gun violence in this country continues to take the lives of the equivalent of a classroom of school children every week.
The gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times higher than other developed countries and gun safety laws are long overdue. Senator Klobuchar has been standing up to the NRA and fighting for stronger gun safety measures since she was the Hennepin County Attorney, working with local law enforcement to push to ban military-style assault weapons. In the Senate, she has supported legislation to ban assault weapons and bump stocks and improve background checks.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she authored legislation that would prevent convicted stalkers from purchasing firearms and close the “boyfriend loophole” by expanding the definition of a domestic abuser to include dating partners. That Klobuchar legislation has now passed the House of Representatives and has been blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
Because of her leadership on gun violence prevention, Senator Klobuchar advocated for gun safety legislation at a meeting with President Trump at the White House after Parkland. Seated across from Senator Klobuchar at the meeting, President Trump publicly declared that he supported doing something on background checks nine times. The next day he then met with the NRA and folded. The legislation never was pushed by the White House.
At tonight’s debate, Senator Klobuchar is joined by gun safety activists Roberta McKelvin, Perry and Sharia Bradley, and Mattie Scott as well as the former mayor of Cedar Rapids, IA, Kay Halloran, who is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition.
Governor also Announces Legislation to Extend Background Check Waiting Period from Three Days to 10 Days
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in state law that will ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms, not just handguns. The Governor also announced he is advancing new legislation to extend the waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System from three days to 10 days.
“In a time when gun violence continues to relentlessly torment communities across the country while our federal government refuses to act, New York must lead the charge to end this epidemic once and for all,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this legislation, we can sever the undeniable connection between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence, and continue to build upon the strongest gun laws in the nation.”
“My mother dedicated her life to helping victims of domestic violence and our family started a home to help these survivors,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.“We’ve seen firsthand the fear created when a gun is present in the home of an abuser. This new law today is a dramatic step forward eliminating the vulnerability of these women and their children. While the federal government fails to address the issue of gun violence, we continue to fight to keep guns out of the hands of those who could devastate our communities and our residents.”
Removing Guns from Domestic Abusers
Previously, New York law narrowly prohibited the possession of firearms for individuals either convicted of a felony or a limited number of misdemeanor “serious” offenses, excluding many misdemeanor offenses that are undeniably serious. This bill (S.8121 Phillips/A10272 O’Donnell), which the Governor signed in ceremony today, expands the list of “serious” crimes that require the loss of a gun license and the surrender of all firearms to ensure no domestic abuser in New York retains the ability to possess a firearm once convicted of a disturbing crime.
In addition, this legislation will preclude any individual wanted for a felony or other serious offense from obtaining or renewing a firearm license. Under previous New York law, despite being subject to an arrest warrant, an individual was still legally eligible to obtain a firearm license even as police worked to locate and detain them. This change ensures that the law enforcement who are actively seeking to arrest a wanted individual, as well as innocent bystanders, are not needlessly endangered by a wanted individual who has been able to obtain new firearms.
Extending the Waiting Period
Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation to establish a 10-day waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Current federal law requires gun dealers to conduct the NICS background check on a potential purchaser prior to selling a firearm, which immediately provides the dealer with one of three possible notifications. These notifications include “proceed”, “denied”, or “delayed”. In the case of a “delayed” response, the dealer must wait three days before the sale is eligible to go through, even though the FBI continues to investigate these individuals past the three-day timeframe. Oftentimes, by the time it has been determined that the potential purchaser was, in fact, ineligible, the individual has already been sold the firearm upon completion of the three-day waiting period. Extending the waiting period to ten days would allow sufficient time to complete the expanded background check and builds on legislative efforts to ensure that only those eligible to own a firearm are able to do so.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said,“Today, New York continues its inspirational leadership in addressing the gun violence epidemic by enacting legislation that recognizes the deadly connection between intimate partner abuse and the tragedy of gun violence. Yet, while New York leads, Republicans in Congress refuse to act. As gun violence and domestic abuse exact a daily toll of horror and heartbreak in communities across the country, saving lives and protecting families shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Democrats know that there is a commonsense, bipartisan path forward and we will continue to press for progress on this critical issue.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said,“I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo as he signs legislation to remove all guns from domestic abusers. These measures will close dangerous loopholes in our gun laws and enhance public safety. There is simply no reason why one who has committed an act of domestic violence should maintain ownership of a firearm. Since the Republican Congress has failed to address the national epidemic of gun violence, I commend Governor Cuomo’s leadership in working to enact reasonable gun safety legislation that will protect New Yorkers.”
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said,“We know that individuals with a history of domestic violence are five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when a firearm is in the house. This bill, to remove guns from domestic abusers, is just commonsense. I was proud to stand with Governor Cuomo today as he signed this important bill that will save lives into law.”
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said,“Gun violence is a plague on our nation and our city that too often shatters lives. The steps being announced today will help keep firearms away from those who should never have access to them. We must do more and Congress must act at the federal level. Nonetheless this effort is a good start and shows New York is leading the way to tackle this horrible problem.”
“Domestic violence affects all communities,” Congressman Adriano Espaillat said. “ commend Governor Cuomo on today’s announcement to remove guns from domestic abusers and close a loophole in New York to ensure domestic abusers are required to surrender all firearms. Domestic violence impacts each of our communities, and today we are standing united with victims, survivors and families of domestic abuse to say enough is enough. I vow to continue my work in Congress to end domestic abuse and violence. Today’s landmark legislation is a historic step in our efforts to protect the victims of domestic violence and help keep individuals and our communities safe.”
Connie Neal, Executive Director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence said, “The connections between domestic violence and gun violence cannot be clearer. We applaud Governor Cuomo and the members of the New York State Legislature who voted to take a strong stand to remove firearms from domestic violence offenders. The urgency to act was irrefutable, and New York has now made a significant step forward in preventing domestic violence homicides. Because of Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we will now have a strong safeguard in place for protecting countless New Yorkers.”
Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said, “The numbers are very clear. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are far more likely to end in death. By requiring domestic abusers to surrender their firearms, Governor Cuomo closed a glaring loophole in state law. I applaud the Governor’s action, as his advocacy for common sense gun laws will help save the lives of vulnerable people all across our state and prevent family fire.”
“As our nation grapples with how to confront the spread of gun violence, we are proud to work and live in a State who has such a leader on this issue: Governor Cuomo,” said Amy Barasch, Executive Director of Her Justice. “At Her Justice, where we provide free legal assistance to thousands of victims of partner violence every year, we know all too well how dangerous guns are in the context of abuse in the home. This new legislation will ensure guns are taken out of the hands of more convicted domestic abusers. Thank you, Governor, for moving us forward.”
Cicely Fields, Domestic and Gun Violence Survivor said, “As a domestic violence survivor, I am a living testimony to why the signing of this bill today is so important. I know firsthand the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is undeniable, as my abuser was able to possess a firearm that injured me within inches of my life. The wound may have healed, but I will still be physically damaged for the rest of my life and my four children, who rely on me for support, will continue to suffer due to the actions of this domestic abuser. I thank Governor Cuomo for ensuring the passage of this law.”
June Rubin, Volunteer Co-Leader for the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said, “Today we took another important step towards protecting New Yorkers from gun violence. While this is a meaningful day, we know this legislation is just one of many steps needed to prevent future acts of gun violence. We look forward to working with lawmakers and Governor Cuomo on future steps such as the passage of lifesaving Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation.”
“Under previous law, where people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor were able keep their firearms, the lives of both their victims and the general public were unnecessarily put at risk,” Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo, this legislation ensures that everyone convicted of a domestic violence crime is held to the same standard, guaranteeing that these dangerous individuals will lose their gun license and their firearms. This is common sense legislation that was long overdue, and we applaud the Governor for seeing it through.”
“Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser owns a firearm,” Senator Elaine Phillips said. “I thank the Governor for signing this legislation into state law, which requires the removal of firearms from individuals convicted of domestic violence. This commonsense legislation keeps firearms out of the hands of those who are convicted of domestic violence, closes the gap in federal law, protects women, men and children from their abusers and will prevent further tragedies.”
Senator Diane Savino said, “This legislation continues our work to strengthen New York State’s nation-leading gun laws. We are closing a loophole that allowed people convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to keep their firearms, and by doing so we are further protecting the victims of domestic violence across this state. No one should have to live in fear of their abusers, and thanks to working with Governor Cuomo on this legislation, we are helping to ensure that they no longer have to.”
Under Governor Cuomo, New York has passed the strongest gun control laws in the nation and with the passing of this legislation, New York’s gun laws have been further strengthened to ensure that the well-known link between domestic abuse and deadly gun violence can be eliminated. In nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in United States history, including Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, the shooter had an existing record of committing violence against women, threatening violence against women, or harassing or disparaging women. In addition, when an abusive partner is permitted to access firearms, the risk that the other partner will be killed increases fivefold. In 2016, firearms were used in 35 domestic homicides in New York.
In addition to continued progressive improvements to New York’s gun legislation, Governor Cuomo led the creation of the “States for Gun Safety” coalition in February of this year to combat the gun violence epidemic in the face of continued federal inaction. Together with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, New York State entered into an agreement to trace and intercept illegal guns, better share information on individuals prohibited from buying or owning firearms, and create the first-in-the-nation regional gun violence research consortium. Massachusetts, Delaware, and Puerto Rico have also joined the coalition, which now represents over 35 million Americans.
On the same day when a Connecticut judge held a hearing on whether the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) requires dismissal of a suit brought by Sandy Hook victims families against gun manufacturers; when an Uber driver was being arraigned in a Kalamazoo, Michigan court for massacring six people with a semi-automatic assault weapon he bought legally but was not licensed to carry; while in the Senate, Democrats Kristin Gillibrand and Blumenthal were pushing for a law that would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the Hillary Clinton campaign organized a call to highlight rival Bernie Sanders’ weak record on gun safety.
South Carolina State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there, joined Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to emphasize Sanders’ role in enacting PLCAA, which protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for gun crimes, as well as his vote to create the Charleston Loophole, which enabled the Charleston shooter to purchase a gun, which a completed background check would have barred him from buying.
Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times, voted to create Charleston loophole which allows someone to buy a gun before a background check has been completed, made it harder to close down gun shops, voted to allow guns on trains. And he voted to shield gun dealers and manufacturers for any culpability, a law that is being used to dismiss the suit of nine Sandy Hook families.
“When the NRA called the bill [giving gun dealers and manufacturers immunity] that Sanders voted for the most important gun legislation in last 20 years, what they were saying was that it was the most important legislation that failed to make any of us safer, in fact, made us all in much greater danger,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.
“You can’t underestimate how much damage was done by the 2005 law – the reason that NRA touted it as greatest legislative victory,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “It gave sweeping legal immunity to gun dealers and manufacturers, the kind of immunity that nearly no other industry has, but thanks to that law, and NRA work and those who supported, gun dealers, manufacturers are shielded from liability.”
The law granting immunity provides a disincentive for gun manufacturers to build smart guns, so that a child could not pick a gun out of his mother’s purse and shoot her dead, as happened, or a teenager could not accidentally kill a friend, or purposefully go to his middle school and murder other students, or a criminal who burgled a house could not use a stolen gun to shoot kill a homeowner who interrupted a burglary. Or an alienated teenager could not come upon a parent’s gun and in a fit of depression, commit suicide. The list goes on and on.
“That’s exactly right,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. “There is no incentive to make sure guns aren’t sold that get onto the street, no incentive for screening…. We have seen in this country retailers who offer smart gun tech boycotted. Historic companies that started talking about manufacturing smart guns, making guns safer, were boycotted. This is activist group – they want no regulation. they know who their friends are in senate and who their enemies.”
And in Connecticut, it is being used to shield gun manufacturers from a lawsuit from families of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
“The NRA that sponsored that legislation, they don’t want guns to be safer,” said Governor Malloy. “They think that’s no one’s obligation. “We have a pharmaceuticals industry that does billions of dollars of research, we don’t grant to them the same protections we grant to the gun industry. Sanders was wrong on this, and he should admit it now. He likes for everyone else to admit their mistake. The death and destruction [immunity] has caused. he should be held accountable for that,” Governor Malloy said.
Sanders also voted to limit the time the federal government has to complete a background check to three days; if for some reason (like budget shortfall and overworked staff) the check cannot be completed in three days’ time, the sale can go through. It’s how the man responsible for murdering nine at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC obtained his gun, even though he would otherwise have failed the background check.
“This issue is extremely important – taken to Senate floor every week since January to discuss, particularly important in African-American community – gun violence is leading cause of death for young black men, more than next nine leading causes combined,” said South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there.
“It’s personal to me- I represent Charleston, where there was the shooting of 9 churchgoers and attempted murder of 5 others in the Mother Emanuel massacre. That killer had rage in his heart no law could have healed, but it shouldn’t have been so easy to buy a gun – because of the loophole the NRA lobbied its allies in Congress to get – the FBI only has three days to complete a background check; after that, if the check is delayed or needs more time, too bad, the gun sale proceeds no matter what about background history. It is now known as ‘Charleston loophole.’
“Before South Carolina goes to the polls on Saturday, I hope to ask Sanders why voted for the loophole I don’t expect Sanders to answer. In July he said, ‘Guns in Vermont are not the same as guns in Chicago, Los Angeles. In our state, they are used for hunting, in Chicago, used for kids and gangs killing other kids or police officers shooting innocent people.’ The language is troubling – a gun from Vermont can kill an innocent churchgoer the same as in South Carolina. The loophole passed at the federal level makes all our communities less safe.
“South Carolinians need a president to close the Charleston Loophole. That’s why I found it so troubling that Sanders said Clinton is standing with Obama just to pander to black voters. I will be a very vocal voice in discussing Clinton’s consistent track record on this issue – my voters take her track record seriously.
Democratic Senators have introduced the “The Background Check Completion Act, which would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, closing the loophole that has allowed thousands of gun sales to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the firearm used by Dylann Roof in his deadly attack at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in June.”
“Compare the Sanders record with Clinton’s record on guns,” Governor Malloy said. “If guns and gun safety is at all important to you and your community you have no choice but to vote for Clinton. Sanders still hasn’t said that vote was wrong. He talks about small shops in Vermont. This is not about small shops in Vermont, not about hunting guns. It’s about protection protecting industry from having to do anything to make these weapons safer.
“The argument about who was on the right of President Obama in the debate eight years ago [is specious]. The question is, ‘Did you support Brady or not, exempting the gun industry in a way no other is, or not? He voted with the NRA and the gun industry. That’s the reality.”
“As a state attorney general, we see this as federal issue, a national issue,” said Healey. “It doesn’t work that guns are treated differently in Vermont. Guns are bought and sold all over and are easily trafficked, transported between and amongst states with too much ease because of inadequate federal law. That’s why it is so important no matter what state you are living in.”
I see another issue implicit in Sanders’ gun legislation record: Sanders has assaulted Clinton charging that she is beholden to Wall Street and special interests because she has accepted money for speeches and donations. I see in his support for the NRA his own interest in keeping the NRA away from spending money to defeat his reelection, having learned in his 1988 defeat for Congress what the NRA could do.
Today, he uses that defeat to show that he stands up to the NRA, but the opposite would seem to be true: he learned to take positions so as not to antagonize the NRA.
“We have a public health crisis when it comes to gun violence – since Sandy Hook, nearly 100,000 lives have been lost to gun violence,” AG Healey said. “It is more important than ever we have president who understands the importance of issue, with a demonstrated track record, who will walk into Oval Office on Day 1 with concrete plans, real plans to address, and has a proven record of standing up to NRA, not standing with them.”