Ten Commonsense Solutions Democrats and Republicans in Congress Can Agree on to Reduce Gun Violence
2015 will be a year of divided government -and it will also likely be the year when, for the first time in decades, young Americans will be more likely to die from gun violence than from car accidents.
Democrats and Republicans both want to show the American people they can still get things done. Here are ten things Democrats and Republicans can work together on that would protect both our communities’ safety and our Second Amendment rights:
1. Close the Stalker Gap: One in six American women experience stalking in her lifetime, and there’s a strong link between stalking and future escalating violence against women: one study of female murder victims in ten cities found that 76 percent of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked in the year before their murder. But under current federal law, people convicted of misdemeanor stalking can still pass a background check and buy a gun. Congress can close the stalker gap by prohibiting those convicted of misdemeanor stalking from accessing firearms – just like we already do for those convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse.
2. Protect Victims of Dating Violence from Homicide: With the risk of death for an abused woman increasing by 500 percent when the abuser has access to a gun, firearms are a primary driver of mortality in domestic violence, which is why domestic abusers are barred from gun access. But almost half of all intimate partner homicides are committed by a dating partner. While our laws prohibit domestic abusers from accessing guns if they live with, are married to, or have a child in common with the victim, far too many abusive dating partners can still get guns just because they don’t meet the current federal definition of domestic partner. With more Americans waiting till later in life to marry, Congress should update our 20-year-old laws to include abusive dating partners on the list of people who can’t legally buy or own guns.
3. Make it Harder for Suspected Terrorists to Get Guns: People in the United States who are in the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List might be stopped from boarding an airplane, but they can still pass a background check and get a gun. With this huge gap in our gun laws, between 2004 and 2010, 1,119 individuals on the Terrorist Watch List passed a background check and succeeded in buying guns or explosives. Congress can close the terror gap by giving federal national security officials the authority to stop the sale of firearms or explosives to individuals on a terrorist watch list.
4. Crack Down on Gun Trafficking: The United States lacks a strong, clear federal statute against gun trafficking (diverting firearms from legitimate commerce to criminals and criminal networks). That’s why Congress should make gun trafficking a serious federal criminal offense and stiffen penalties at every point of the trafficking chain to prevent straw purchasers and shady gun dealers from trafficking illegal weapons to dangerous people.
5. Invest in Dedicated Funding for Research About The Causes & Impact of Gun Violence: 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.
6. Trace All Crime Guns: Crime gun tracing is a powerful tool available to law enforcement as they investigate crimes and seek to answer the sadly common question: “Where did the gun come from?” Yet only one-third of law enforcement agencies take advantage of this important federal resources for crime gun tracing. Congress can act now by providing incentives for law enforcement to report all crime guns they recover to the ATF National Tracing Center. This practice will help us better solve crimes and understand how guns end up in the hands of dangerous people.
7. Strengthen Records Reporting to the Background Check System: Since its inception in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has conducted over 100 million background checks on gun sales, leading to more than 700,000 denials of prohibited purchasers – including convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill. But our background check system is only as strong as the records that it contains. Millions of records are still missing from the background check system and twelve states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records. Congress must continue to work to ensure that all records of prohibited purchasers are submitted to the background check system.
8. Require Gun Dealers to Do Inventory Checks – Like The Bush Administration Wanted To. Every year, tens of thousands of firearms are lost or stolen from gun dealers – and often ultimately trafficked to criminals and used to perpetrate violent crimes. Requiring gun dealers to conduct basic retail business practices, like inventory, can make sure guns end up in the hands of responsible citizens instead of in the hands of violent criminals. But since 2004, a rider attached to annual appropriations bills prevents law enforcement from implementing a Bush administration era proposal requiring gun dealers to perform annual inventories. Congress should require guns dealers to conduct annual inventory checks to detect missing or stolen guns.
9. Require Gun Dealers to Do Background Checks on Their Employees. While federal law prohibits felons, domestic violence misdemeanants, and other persons from owning a gun, there is no federal requirement that gun dealers perform criminal background checks on their own employees to determine if they are prohibited from owning guns. That’s why Congress should require the same background check on the people who sell guns as on the people who buy the guns.
10. Close the Gun Show & Internet Loopholes. Ninety percent of Americans want to expand background checks on gun sales. And expanded background checks work: In states with background checks on all handgun sales, women are 46 percent less likely to be shot to death by their intimate partners, there are 48 percent fewer suicides and law enforcement are 48 percent less likely to be killed. Congress should close the loopholes in our background check system that let felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill get guns.