ARS & the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Respond to the Gun Tragedies in Pike County, Ohio

April 22, 2016 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence today responded to the tragic shootings in Pike County, Ohio that left at least seven people dead, including five children.

“Once again, a gun tragedy has destroyed a family and torn a community apart. On a early spring morning, at least five young children and two adults were gunned down in their homes. While we have yet to learn the full details of this senseless tragedy, we know that at least seven young lives were cut short by a dangerous person with a gun – and those children were robbed of their opportunity to grow up,” said Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly.“The horror that unfolded today in Ohio begs the question: How many more headlines like these will Americans have to read before our leaders act to make our communities safer from gun violence? We grieve for the Ohioans whose lives were tragically taken today and we are praying for strength for their loved ones. Today, our hearts are in Pike County.”

 “117,000 Americans are shot every year. Today, seven people were killed with a gun in Pike County, Ohio, five of them children—one just five days old. We’re tired of saying we’re outraged by this horrific, preventable violence,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which recently merged with Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Again and again, the research has shown that smart gun laws—many of which Ohio lawmakers have shamefully failed to enact—significantly reduce gun deaths. It’s past time that our leaders stand up to the gun lobby and demand the commonsense solutions that we know save lives.”

About Americans for Responsible Solutions

Founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) is committed to advancing commonsense change that makes communities safer from gun violence and encouraging elected officials to advance responsible firearms policies. Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC is committed to helping elect candidates from both parties who support commonsense laws that make communities safer from gun violence. Learn more at responsiblesolutions.organd at @Resp_Solutions.

About the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Founded in the wake of the July 1, 1993, assault weapon massacre at 101 California Street in San Francisco that left eight dead and six wounded, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is now the premier resource for legal expertise and information regarding state and federal firearms laws. Made up of the foremost gun law attorneys in the nation, the Law Center tracks and analyzes firearms legislation in all 50 states, files amicus briefs in critical Second Amendment cases across the country, and works with lawmakers and advocates to craft and promote legislation that will reduce gun violence and save lives. We regularly partner with other nonprofit organizations dedicated to combating the epidemic of gun violence in our country, and we invite you to explore our website, smartgunlaws.org, and to follow us on Twitter @smartgunlaws to learn more about our work and deepen your knowledge about gun laws in America.

ARS Applauds Delaware House for Advancing Bill to Close “Charleston Loophole”

April 22, 2016 – Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and former NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, today applauded the Delaware House of House of Representatives for its bipartisan vote advancing a bill to strengthen the state’s gun background check system by closing the dangerous “Charleston Loophole” that allows gun sales to proceed before the criminal background check is complete.

The legislation, HB 325, which was introduced last week, comes on the heels of Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly’s visit to Wilmington last month and launch of the new bipartisan Delaware Coalition for Common Sense.

“We applaud the leaders in the Delaware House of Representative for doing the responsible thing and passing this commonsense bill that will help close the loopholes in our laws that let dangerous people like felons and domestic abusers buy guns before a criminal background check is complete,” said Amber Goodwin, National Advocacy Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions. “We need to give law enforcement the time they need to do their job and finish the background check. We urge Delaware’s leaders in the Senate to follow suit and pass this responsible legislation that will help strengthen the background check system and make Delaware a safer place to live.”

ABOUT THE DANGEROUS “CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE” FOR GUN SALES

While 91% of background checks are processed instantly through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), 9% require further investigation before determining if the firearm transfer in question would violate federal or state law. But due to an gun lobby-backed amendment to the Brady background checks bill of 1993, FBI and ATF agents are only allowed three business days to investigate the potential purchaser. If a gun dealer has not been informed of a final determination after three days, the dealer is legally permitted to proceed with the sale

Default proceed sales, also known as the “Charleston loophole,” exemplify a glaring and dangerous gap in federal gun laws. From 2010 to 2014 alone, 15,729 gun sales that should have been denied were allowed to take place through default proceeds because a final determination could not be made within the three day window.

Sales occurring through default proceeds are eight times more likely than regular background checks to involve a purchaser who is prohibited under federal law from legally buying a gun. Dylann Roof, the shooter who killed nine people at a Charleston church, was prohibited under federal law from purchasing his gun due to a disqualifying drug record that should have made it illegal for him to buy a firearm. Because this determination was not made until after three days, the sale was able to proceed. Disqualifying domestic violence records tend to fall through the cracks as well; In 2003, 34% of cases in which the ATF retrieved a gun after being obtained through a default proceed sale involved a purchaser with a domestic violence conviction or restraining order.

ARS Calls on Delaware Legislators to Pass New Bipartisan Bill to Close “Charleston Loophole” for Gun Sales

April 15, 2016 – Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and former NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, today called on Delaware legislators to pass a new bipartisan proposal to strengthen the state’s gun background check system by closing the dangerous “Charleston Loophole” that allows gun sales to proceed before the criminal background check is complete.

The introduction of the new bill, HB 325, comes on the heels of Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly’s visit to Wilmington last month and launch of the new bipartisan Delaware Coalition for Common Sense.

“We applaud leaders in Delaware for introducing this responsible bill that will strengthen the state’s background check system and help keep guns out of the wrong hands,” said Amber Goodwin, Advocacy Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions. “We thank Representative Osienski and Representative Longhurst for their leadership in helping introduce this commonsense, responsible proposal. We hope that Delaware’s leaders will do the responsible thing, pass this life-saving legislation and send it to Governor Jack Markell’s desk.”

ABOUT THE DANGEROUS “CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE” FOR GUN SALES

While 91% of background checks are processed instantly through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), 9% require further investigation before determining if the firearm transfer in question would violate federal or state law. But due to an gun lobby-backed amendment to the Brady background checks bill of 1993, FBI and ATF agents are only allowed three business days to investigate the potential purchaser. If a gun dealer has not been informed of a final determination after three days, the dealer is legally permitted to proceed with the sale.

Default proceed sales, also known as the “Charleston loophole,” exemplify a glaring and dangerous gap in federal gun laws. From 2010 to 2014 alone, 15,729 gun sales that should have been denied were allowed to take place through default proceeds because a final determination could not be made within the three day window. 

Sales occurring through default proceeds are eight times more likely than regular background checks to involve a purchaser who is prohibited under federal law from legally buying a gun. Dylann Roof, the shooter who killed nine people at a Charleston church, was prohibited under federal law from purchasing his gun due to a disqualifying drug record that should have made it illegal for him to buy a firearm. Because this determination was not made until after three days, the sale was able to proceed. Disqualifying domestic violence records tend to fall through the cracks as well; In 2003, 34% of cases in which the ATF retrieved a gun after being obtained through a default proceed sale involved a purchaser with a domestic violence conviction or restraining order.

Bipartisan Group of Former U.S. Surgeons General Call on Congress to Invest in Federal Gun Violence Research

April 14, 2016 – A bipartisan group of former U.S. Surgeons General are urging Congress to renew investments in federal research into the causes and costs of gun violence, and strategies to reduce it. The letters, which come on the heels of National Public Health week, are signed by four Surgeons General who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, including:

15th U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, M.D.

16th U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.

17th U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS

18th U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A.

“As former Surgeons General, we know that saving Americans’ lives requires that we fully understand the scope and causes of gun violence,” write former Surgeons General Benjamin, Elders and Satcher in their letter sent today to congressional leadership. “It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation’s public health. We urge you to fund CDC research into gun violence to better the health and safety of all Americans.”

Former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona also released a letter calling on Congress to fund gun violence research. Read the full letter here.

In addition, former Republican Congressman Jay Dickey, the author of the 1996 “Dickey” amendment, which limited the CDC’s authority to conduct gun violence prevention research, and Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control who left the CDC due to his commitment to gun violence prevention research, have renewed their call for Congress to invest in federal gun violence research.

“Firearm violence is a major health and safety problem in the United States, and far too little is known about the solutions that might be available. We believe that increasing funding for firearm violence prevention research would help stimulate technological innovations and generate scientific evidence that will let us both save lives and protect gun rights,” said Congressman Dickey and Dr. Rosenberg. “This is not an academic exercise and we will need to better understand each other, collaborate, and reach consensus on how to really get this done.”

Read Congressman Dickey and Dr. Rosenberg’s full statement here.

“Our national gun violence crisis is now a full-blown public health crisis, and it demands a data-driven approach to addressing it. That’s why it is essential that we begin to understand the full scope of the problem of gun violence in our country through federal research,” said Peter Ambler, 501(c)(4) Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Now is the time for Congress to listen to our nation’s leading medical experts, and address our growing gun violence epidemic.”

Earlier today, Americans for Responsible Solutions hosted a panel discussion with medical and public health experts at the National Press Club that focused on the need for direct federal investment into gun violence research.

The letter sent to congressional leaders today by former Surgeons General Benjamin, Elders and Satcher is here and follows below:

 

April 14, 2016

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, and Members of the United States Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives,

We write to you today at the conclusion of National Public Health Week, an occasion dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of all Americans. It is in this spirit that we urge Congress to invest in federal research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into gun violence, one of our nation’s leading public health challenges and one that impacts all of our communities.

As you know, gun violence takes the lives of 33,000 Americans each year[1] and for every person killed, two more are injured.[2] Whether gun violence is in the form of a domestic violence homicide, suicide, unintentional shooting, gang-related killing, or mass shooting, the tragedy affects the entire community. In 2010 alone, gun violence cost the United States $174 billion.[3] Gun violence is a public health crisis that demands a national public health response.

Due to a restrictive budget amendment put into place by Congress, since 1996 federal investments into gun violence research have effectively been frozen. Although President Obama lifted the ban on such research in 2012, Congress has yet to dedicate the necessary resources to study the causes and costs of firearms violence and related injuries.

The CDC has made life-saving progress in tackling other public health challenges- identifying risk factors and disseminating prevention policies for motor vehicle crashes, which caused automobile deaths to fall from over 41,000 in 1997[4] to just over 30,000 in 2013.[5] Gun deaths, on the other hand, outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia in 2014 alone.[6]    

As former Surgeons General, we know that saving Americans’ lives requires that we fully understand the scope and causes of gun violence. The CDC is the nation’s premier institution of public health and can make significant strides by conducting evidence-based, data-driven research into gun violence. It is only through research that we can begin to address this menace to our nation’s public health.  We urge you to fund CDC research into gun violence to better the health and safety of all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, 2009 – 2003

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, U.S. Surgeon General, 1993 – 1994

Dr. David Satcher, U.S. Surgeon General, 1998 – 2002

 

[1] Nat’l Ctr. for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System (WISQARS), Injury Mortality Reports, 1999-2010, for National, Regional, and States (Dec. 2012), http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/dataRestriction_inj.html.

[2] Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Gun Violence Statistics. November 18 2012. http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-statistics/.

[3] Children’s Safety Network Economics and Data Analysis Resource Center at Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, The Cost of Firearm Violence. TR Miller, data analyst. From American Association of Public Health, Gun Violence Prevention.

https://www.apha.org/~/media/files/pdf/factsheets/gun_violence_prevention.ashx

[4] National Safety Council. Accident facts, 1998 edition. Itasca, Illinois: National Safety Council, 1998. From Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Achievements in Public Health, 1990-1999 Motor-Vehicle Safety: A 20th Century Public Health Accomplishment.” http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4818a1.htm

[5] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Encyclopedia, General. http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx.

[6] Violence Policy Center, “Gun Deaths Compared to Motor Vehicle Deaths.” 2015. http://www.vpc.org/regulating-the-gun-industry/gun-deaths-compared-to-motor-vehicle-deaths/

Gabby Giffords & Garden State Advocates Call on Governor Chris Christie to Sign Bipartisan Bill to Help Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers

April 7, 2016 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Co-Founder of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), and Garden State domestic violence prevention groups applauded the New Jersey legislature today for its bipartisan vote advancing legislation to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and called on Governor Chris Christie to sign it into law.

In a bipartisan vote today, the State Assembly approved legislation (S805/A1211) that establishes effective procedures that will provide guidance and assurance to law enforcement, victims, and advocates to help limit abusers’ access to guns. The bill, which had previously been approved by the New Jersey State Senate in a bipartisan vote, now heads to Governor Chris Christie’s desk.

“Like so many others around our country, New Jersey families know that guns and domestic violence are a deadly, tragic mix. New Jersey’s domestic violence survivors, advocates and public safety officials have long called for commonsense solutions to protect victims of domestic violence. And today, Republicans and Democrats came together to advance a bipartisan bill that will protect vulnerable families by closing the loopholes that let domestic abusers have easy access to guns,” said Congresswoman Giffords. “Today’s bipartisan vote puts the state one step closer to joining the growing list of states across the country who have taken responsible steps that makes it harder for domestic abusers to access guns. I hope that Governor Christie will follow in the footsteps of so many other Republican and Democratic governors across the country, sign this responsible, bipartisan bill into law, and make it harder for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.”

“This bill will help to strengthen our current firearms legislation that seeks to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from maintaining and gaining access to firearms that put victims’ lives in danger,” said the New Jersey Coalition To End Domestic Violence. “Victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be killed by a current or former abusive partner when the perpetrator of violence owns a firearm. From 2003 to 2012, 30.5 percent, nearly one third of victims of intimate partner homicide in New Jersey were killed by guns. By providing guidance to the courts and law enforcement this bill will help to address gaps that currently exist to improve upon the process with which firearms are seized, to ensure law enforcement access records documenting perpetrators’ firearm purchases and ownership, and to support information shared with victims allowing them to enhance their safety plans.”

S805/A1211 will strengthen New Jersey’s laws by:

  • Requiring domestic abusers to surrender all of their guns if a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, or if they’re convicted of a domestic violence offense;
  • Suspending the gun purchaser ID cards and permits of abusers;
  • Revoking such cards if an abuser is convicted of a domestic violence crime; and,
  • Requiring the cross-checking of records to determine if an abuser owns a firearm.

Last March, Congresswoman Giffords joined Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and leaders in New Jersey’s domestic violence prevention community at an event at the New Jersey State House to urge legislators to pass laws like this one that protect women and families from gun violence.

BACKGROUND ON THE NEXUS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING PARTNER ABUSE, STALKING, AND ACCESS TO FIREARMS

Women in the United States Are Eleven Times More Likely to be Murdered with a Gun Than Women in Other Developed Countries. More than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012] More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011] In 2013, a gun was the most commonly used weapon in a murder of a woman by a man. [Violence Policy Center, 2015]

Guns and Domestic Abuse Are A Deadly Mix: Abused women in the United States are five times more likely to be killed by their abusers if that individual has access to a gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012]

Nearly Half of Murders by an Intimate Partner Are Committed by a Dating Partner – But the “Boyfriend Gap” in Federal Law Lets Abusive Dating Partners Access Guns: From 2009 to 2010, 48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011] Current federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from accessing firearms, including individuals who are a current or former spouse, parent, parent of a child in common, current or former cohabitant, or a personal similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. But federal law does not include perpetrators who abused current or former dating partners from accessing guns. With more women choosing to marry later in life and live in non-cohabitating dating relationships, this gap leaves a significant number of abusers free to access firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

Stalking Is A Strong Predictor of Future Violence – But the “Stalker Gap” in Federal Law Lets Some Convicted Stalkers Access Guns: Stalking is a strong precursor to escalating violence. One study of female murder victims in ten cities found that 76 percent of women murdered and 85 percent who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner experienced stalking in the year preceding the murder. [Homicide Studies, 1999] Under current federal law, individuals convicted of felony stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing guns. But individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses are not prohibited from accessing guns. Closing the “stalker gap” in federal law would help ensure that all individuals convicted of stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

In the Face of Inaction in Congress, Blue, Purple and Red States Are Enacting Laws to Close These Loopholes and Limit Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. While each state has taken a distinct approach to strengthening laws that address gun violence against women, state leaders are addressing major gaps in federal law to help protect vulnerable women and families. At least 12 states have updated their laws to prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors against dating partners from possessing firearms. And 25 states prohibit gun possession by at least some people subject to protective orders for dating partners. In the last two years, leaders from both parties have enacted legislation addressing the often lethal mix of domestic violence and access to firearms in a number of states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Delaware.

Americans from Both Parties Support Legislation Limiting Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. According to research conducted in June 2015, 82 percent of Americans – including 82 percent of Republicans – say they would support legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. [Public Policy Polling]

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