GUN VIOLENCE

The plague of gun violence in the United States is growing deadlier and more systemic. Seemingly every day the news is reporting yet another innocent life stolen by gun violence on our streets, or another mass shooting at a workplace, festival, nightclub or house of worship. Far too many of these shootings take place inside our schools, places children and educators should feel safe. In today’s America, lockdown drills are critical and common. This is causing untold anxiety in our children.

The incredible activism by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, in Parkland, Florida has brought forward a new wave of student involvement in curtailing gun violence. The activism has spread into my district as well, where I have personally met with student advocates from NY-16 fighting for stricter gun laws. These students demand and should get action on gun control measures. They deserve action from their government. They are advocating for common-sense gun control measures, which enjoy a support of a majority of Americans. The Democratic Congress has passed the first significant gun safety improvement legislation since 1994, but the Republican-led Senate, continues to block their consideration.

Throughout my career in Congress, I have continually pushed for reforms to our gun laws that keep deadly weapons off the streets, out of our neighborhoods, and away from dangerous people who would use them for harm. I am a cosponsor of more than a dozen gun safety measures, and a vocal proponent of universal background checks, the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, and limitations on particularly dangerous weapons that serve no legitimate purpose for hunters or other sportsmen. I am also proud to say that I have a lifetime “F” rating from the NRA.

With our new Democratic majority, my fellow House Democrats and I were able to pass two critically needed gun reform bills. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, and the Enhanced Background Check Act of 2019. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 requires a background check for gun sales or transfers. The bill also closes large loopholes in the system, such as the “Gun Show Loophole” and the “Online Loophole.” The Enhanced Background Check Act of 2019 ends the deadly “Charleston Loophole,” which extends the timeline for an FBI background check from 3 business days to 10. The bill ensures the FBI has adequate time for a thorough background check and implements other measures to prevent a firearm from falling into the wrong hands. We are waiting to see if the Senate’s obstruction can give way to public safety.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Armor-Piercing Bullets (APB) Act, to restrict the sale of the military-grade, armor-piercing M855 5.56 NATO “green tip” round. The round was designed for military use in the M16 assault rifle but can also fit into several easily concealed handguns. Above all, these APBs pose an extreme risk to our brave police officers, who are most likely to find themselves on the receiving end of these rounds. Nicknamed the “cop-killer,” these bullets can easily penetrate the body armor police depend on. In 2015, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) recommended that these bullets be banned from being sold, but once again, the NRA and Congressional Republicans ignored the ATF.

I have also led the charge for nearly a decade to implement a federal ban on the sale of similarly dangerous armor-piercing handguns. My Protect Law Enforcement Armor (PLEA) Act would prohibit the sale and import of the Belgian made Herstal Five-seveN and all similar weapons. The Five-seveN, known within Latin American drug cartels as the “mata policia” – again the “cop killer” – was built as a compact, body-armor piercing handgun. Nidal Malik Hasan – the Fort Hood shooter – used a Five-seveN with an extended magazine during his massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30.

This pattern of continued, terrifying mass shootings is highly disturbing. From Columbine, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Orlando, Las Vegas, Charleston and Pittsburgh to mention a just a few of the deadly shootings. On average, The United States sees a different mass shooting every day. The only thing worse than the anguish of parents, brothers, sisters, and friends who’ve lost their loved ones is seeing how desensitized we have all become to this violence. Sadly, many have grown to see this as a part of daily life. It shouldn’t be. This must stop, and I will not stop fighting until it does. I will continue to work with my colleagues for sensible gun control, and never back down against the NRA. The American people deserve better, and their sense of safety returned.

Gun violence is an epidemic and must be treated as such. I have supported and advocated for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to receive funding to research the root causes of gun violence, and to develop effective medical and mental health interventions. I was proud to support and help pass $50 million in funding for the CDC and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to begin their research on this matter. It is a scourge on our society and cannot continue unchecked.

The plague of gun violence in this country is both tragic and horrific. It is something that has no place in a modern country claiming to be the world’s greatest bastion of freedom and democracy. While we are all horrified by the large, publicized atrocities of mass shootings, we should remember the majority of those killed by firearms are not involved in mass shootings. The majority of gun deaths result from suicide. In our fight for common-sense gun reform we must also be sure that these people receive the mental health care they need and deserve.