Democrats and Republicans both want to show the American people they can still get things done. Here are five things our leaders can do together that would make our communities safer:
The federal background check system is an effective mechanism that prevents prohibited purchasers, such as convicted felons, the dangerously mentally ill and domestic abusers from accessing guns. Yet glaring loopholes in our laws allow prohibited individuals to access firearms through unlicensed dealers, or “private sellers.” By closing these loopholes and requiring background checks at gun shows and online, we can ensure that guns stay out of the hands of those prohibited by federal law. In states with background checks on all handgun sales, 46% fewer women are killed by intimate partners, there are 48% fewer firearms suicides and 48% fewer law on-duty police officers are shot to death. In fact, 18 states have already expanded their federal background check systems to cover some unlicensed gun sales. Read more here.
The nexus of domestic abuse and gun violence cannot be overstated- the mere presence of a gun in domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by five times. We need federal legislation that strengthens our nation’s guns laws and further prevents domestic abusers from accessing guns. By extending current firearms prohibitions to abusive dating partners and those convicted of misdemeanor stalking, we can keep guns out of dangerous hands and improve the safety of women and families.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of guns are diverted from legitimate commerce into the criminal marketplace and are eventually recovered at crime scenes. But currently, prosecutors have no clear and effective statute to use to punish gun traffickers. Straw purchases provide a major source of guns for organized crime organizations in the U.S. and Mexico. Congress should work to make gun trafficking a federal crime and ensure enhanced penalties for kingpin gun traffickers, corrupt gun dealers and straw purchasers.
Since its creation in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS) has blocked the sale of firearms to over 2 million prohibited purchasers. While states have done a significantly better job submitting records to NICS in recent years, more must be done to incentivize and support states in their work to improve their records reporting laws and systems. 11 states and the District of Columbia still have no reporting requirements laws, while 12 states have reported fewer than 100 records to NICS. Congress must continue to work to ensure that all records of prohibited purchasers are submitted to the background check system.
In 1996, believe it or not, Congress banned federal research into the causes and effects of gun violence. While the Administration cleared the way for public health research about gun violence to take place, Congress refuses to seriously invest in research to understand the connection between gun violence and public health. Congress should allocate dedicated funding to firearms injury prevention research at the Centers for Disease Control.