Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly Statement on Funding for Background Checks and Misguided Gun Policy Riders in FY2016 CJS Appropriations Bill

 

May 20, 2015 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the below statement today on funding for the federal background checks system and misguided gun riders contained in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill.

The FY2016 bill maintains funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) at the FY2015 enacted level and includes $1.25 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), $49 million above the FY2015 enacted level. However, the bill contains several legislative “riders” that will hinder the enforcement of existing laws. Congresswoman Giffords and Capt. Kelly’s statement:

“This bill provides an investment in our background check system and law enforcement that is badly needed. Our national background check system is only as good as the records of the dangerous people that it contains – but thousands of records are missing, making it far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns. We must continue to provide states with the resources they need to ensure that convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill don’t have easy access to guns. And we must continue to give federal law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on the illegal gun trade.

“While we are pleased to see this bipartisan agreement on continued, expanded funding for our background check system, unfortunately this legislation contains several harmful riders that make it harder to enforce existing federal gun laws. These special interest riders are irresponsible. We urge the Committee to strip them from this bill.

“We were also shocked and disappointed to see the Committee reject an amendment to close the loophole that allows individuals on the FBI’s Terror Watch List to pass a background check when buying a gun. The threat of active shooter terrorism remains real, and we fear that the recent attack in Texas is a harbinger of greater future threats.

“It’s good news that this bill invests in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System grant program. But there is still a lot more to do to fix our broken background check system – including closing the loopholes that allows dangerous people to buy guns without a background check or any questions asked. Americans for Responsible Solutions will continue to fight for closing these loopholes and making our communities safer from gun violence.”

Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly seek tougher Oregon, U.S. gun laws for domestic abusers

Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly seek tougher Oregon, U.S. gun laws for domestic abusers

The Oregonian

May 14, 2015

Oregon is leading the way in making communities and families safer with its new law expanding gun sale background checks to include private transactions, according to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her retired astronaut husband, Mark Kelly.

“This week, Oregon took a very positive step,” Kelly said Wednesday in Salem, referring to Gov. Kate Brown’s signing Monday of Senate Bill 941, “and over time we’re going to see less people die in the state of Oregon.”

Kelly and Giffords, who was serving as an Arizona Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives when she was shot in the head during a 2011 Tucson appearance, were in the state Capitol Wednesday to push for federal and state legislation that would better protect women and children from gun violence. They were speaking as co-founders of their advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

In addition to meeting privately with Brown and state lawmakers, they made a public pitch at the Center for Hope & Safety, a 43-year-old Salem nonprofit that serves women and children who have experienced domestic violence. The couple chose the Center for Hope & Safety because it was highly recommended by the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said Americans for Responsible Solutions spokesman Mark Prentice.

During a press conference in the center’s second-floor community room, Giffords gave a brief prepared statement that began, “Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women.”

Gun violence is a women’s issue, she said, and women can lead the way in addressing it with common sense and responsibility. “We can change our laws. We can win elections,” she said. “Please join your voice with mine.”

At the federal level, Americans for Responsible Solutions is supporting Senate Bill 1290, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Among other things, it would expand the definition of domestic partnerships and close a loophole for stalking offenders.

Kelly said federal and state laws need to acknowledge that couples who aren’t married or living together also can experience domestic violence, including violence involving guns. “Why do we allow domestic abuse to not be called what it really is?” he said.

He also said federal law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns does not include those convicted of misdemeanor-level stalking crimes or those who are not living with the person they are dating.

In an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive, he called that the “stalker gap,” saying, “Misdemeanor stalkers can buy all the guns they want – we don’t think that should be the case.”

At the state level, Senate Bill 525 would prohibit possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person who is subject to a restraining order or who has been convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence.

Kelly said Oregon is already on a path to expanding the definition of domestic violence beyond married and cohabiting couples.

“I applaud Oregon for taking that extra step and even getting ahead of the federal government,” he said.

Americans for Responsible Solutions is also asking Congress to expand the federal background check system so abusers cannot access firearms and to improve states’ submission of domestic violence records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Kelly said several times that he and Giffords have no objection to gun ownership and own firearms themselves. “As responsible gun owners, we feel that everybody should have to get a background check before buying a firearm,” he said.

Prentice said the couple own several handguns, including one that Kelly had while serving as a Navy combat pilot during the first Gulf War, and a .30-06 hunting rifle.

Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly Tour Salem Center for Domestic Violence Survivors

May 13, 2015 – Speaking today at a Salem nonprofit that serves survivors of domestic violence, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), called on Oregon’s leaders to pass commonsense legislation that protects women and families by ensuring domestic abusers don’t have easy access to guns.

Congresswoman Giffords and Capt. Kelly spoke at Salem’s Center for Hope and Safety, which serves survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and stalking, and toured the facility with the organization’s Executive Director.

“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. That makes gun violence a women’s issue – for mothers, for families, for me and you,” said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership, in remarks during the visit. “Women can lead the way. Together, we can change our laws.”

“Guns and domestic violence are a tragic and often deadly mix. Our leaders need to do more to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers – and make women and families safer from gun violence” said Captain Mark Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut and gun owner. “The proposal currently before the Oregon State Senate would make some small, commonsense changes to current laws and give Oregon’s law enforcement officials the tools they need to protect victims of domestic violence and ensure abusers don’t have easy access to guns. Gabby and I hope Oregon will continue to lead the way in protecting the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners and keeping guns out of dangerous hands.”

A bill before the Oregon State Senate, SB 525,  help close gaps in Oregon law by ensuring that individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence can’t or named in a restraining order that has been upheld in a court hearing can’t have legal access to guns.

Nationally, women in the U.S. are 11 times likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. Abused women are also five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if that individual has access to a firearm.

Earlier this week, Oregon became the 18th state to require background checks for all gun sales, and the eighth since the founding of Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly’s Statement On Oregon Becoming The 18th State With Expanded Background Checks For Gun Sales

May 11, 2015– Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), issued the below statement following Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s signature of legislation making Oregon the 18th state with expanded background checks. Their statement:

“Today, Oregon became a safer place to live and joined a growing list of states that have had what Congress has not: the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. We are grateful to leaders in the legislature who sent this commonsense bill to Governor Brown’s desk – and we are grateful to Gov. Brown for making expanded background checks the law of the land in Oregon. As gun owners, we know that expanded background checks help protect the rights of law-abiding citizens – which is why 83% of gun owners support this small change to the state’s laws.

“This is a victory for responsibility and should send a clear message to leaders in Congress: if they aren’t willing to take some small, commonsense steps to keep guns out of the wrong hands, states around the country are ready to stand up for safer communities. We are proud of our organization’s work to help make this victory possible. We are also grateful to the thousands of Americans for Responsible Solutions supporters in Oregon who lobbied their elected officials, testified before the Oregon legislature and used their voice to urge their legislators to make their communities safer from gun violence.”

The bill signed into law today addresses the gap in Oregon law that lets unlicensed sellers transfer a firearm to another person, including through online sales, without a background check. Previously in Oregon, individuals must pass a background check before they can buy a gun from a licensed firearm dealer and at gun shows. While individuals can request a state background check before selling a gun to another person, Oregon did not require unlicensed sellers to conduct a background check when transferring a gun.

A recent survey of registered Oregon voters conducted on behalf of Americans for Responsible Solutions found that a broad majority of Oregonians – including gun owners – support expanded background checks for gun sales. Among the survey’s findings: 87 percent of Oregon voters support expanded background checks on gun sales, with 70 percent saying they strongly support them; and 83 percent of Oregon gun owners support expanded background checks on gun sales. Click here to read a memo on the research’s findings.

ARS PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS: OREGON

ARS has an active advocacy program in Oregon. Highlights of the organization’s work to support the passage of background checks include:

Grassroots Organizing: Earlier this month, over 100 Oregon medical professionals who are Americans for Responsible Solutions supporters – including doctors, nurses, and public health specialists – signed a letter that was delivered to state lawmakers urging them to take action to reduce gun violence, including passing SB 941, which would close the current loophole that allows people in Oregon to buy a gun without a background check. Read more here.

Mobilizing Key Constituencies: Americans for Responsible Solutions also helped organize key constituents to testify before the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of SB 941. Earlier this month, Dr. Jim Scott of Portland and retired United States Army intelligence officer Jeff Julum of Salem testified in support of SB 941. Both Mr. Julum and Dr. Scott are supporters of Americans for Responsible Solutions. Read more here.

Targeted Digital Education Campaign: Americans for Responsible Solutions engaged in a statewide digital campaign to educate Oregonians on gaps in current Oregon gun laws and highlight commonsense changes that can make their communities safer. The campaign, which targets more than 700,000 people in the state and will run for the duration of the legislative session, will encourage Oregonians to contact their legislator and urge them to support legislation that will help reduce gun violence. Read more here.

OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND CHECKS LAWS

Federal Law Requires Background Checks – But Only at Licensed Firearms Dealers, Not Online and at Gun Shows. In 1993, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law, making background checks a requirement for federally licensed gun dealers and setting up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system of databases maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Under federal law, certain categories of dangerous individuals, known as prohibited purchasers, such as convicted felons, domestic abusers and some dangerously mentally ill people are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. Under the Brady Act, when a person attempts to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer, the dealer runs a check through the NICS system to determine whether a potential buyer is prohibited from purchasing firearms. If information in NICS indicates that a person is prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm, the dealer must deny the sale.

Background Checks Are Quick and Effective – They’ve Blocked Over Two Million Potential Sales to Prohibited Purchasers. 91 percent of background checks are completed instantaneously and since the NICS system has been in place, over 196 million background checks have been conducted, and over two million firearms sales to prohibited purchasers have been denied.

States with Background Checks Have Seen Public Safety Gains. In the sixteen states and the District of Columbia that already require background checks for all handgun sales, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners, there are 48 percent fewer firearms suicides and 48% fewer law enforcement officers are shot to death by handguns. When Missouri repealed its background check law in 2007 that required background checks on all handgun sales, gun homicides increased by 25 percent in the state.

Gabby Giffords & Delaware Legislators Announce Bill To Help Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Domestic Abusers

May 7, 2015 – At a press conference today with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the Delaware State Capitol, Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City, and leaders in Delaware’s domestic violence prevention community announced new bipartisan legislation that will enact commonsense changes to Delaware laws to protect domestic violence victims and help reduce abusers’ access to firearms.

Women in domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to a gun. The legislation, Senate Bill 83, which is being co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican legislators, would protect victims of domestic violence and dating violence by helping prevent domestic abusers’ access to guns, without affecting the Second Amendment rights of law abiding people. The bill would:

  1. Prevent individuals convicted of dating partner violence within the past five years from buying or owning guns. Current Delaware law prohibits people convicted of “misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence” within the last five years from possessing firearms, but this term does not include domestic abuse in a dating relationship. 12 other states already prohibit gun possession for convicted abusers of dating partners.

  2. Ensure people convicted of a violent misdemeanor against a former cohabitant (person who lived with the perpetrator during the past five years) can’t legally buy or own guns. Current Delaware law only prohibits gun possession by a person convicted of victimizing a cohabitant if they lived together at the time of the crime. This means that an abuser can still access guns if he or she is convicted of a crime that occurred after (or because) the victim moved out.

  3. Ensure people subject to an emergency Protection From Abuse order can’t buy guns. Nineteen other states already prohibit gun purchases by at least some people who are subject to ex parte domestic violence protective orders, which is when the risk of violence is often greatest.

  4. Help enforce existing law by requiring that people subject to a Protection From Abuse order, who have been instructed to surrender their firearms, identify to the court how they have done so. The bill would also help ensure that guns are surrendered pursuant to a PFA order by clarifying that the abuser must turn over these weapons immediately upon the request of a law enforcement officer or, if no request is made, within 24 hours at a staffed police station.

As the bill was introduced, Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by Congresswoman Giffords and her husband, retired Navy combat veteran and astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, announced new research showing broad support among likely 2016 voters in Delaware for the bill’s key components.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 70% support preventing individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse against a dating partner from owning a gun, with 44% strongly supporting it.

  • 74% support preventing individuals who have been convicted of violent or threatening misdemeanors from owning a gun, including 47% who strongly support it.

  • 70% support prohibiting individuals who have a temporary domestic abuse restraining order from owning or possessing a gun, with 43% strongly support.

  • 77% of Delaware voters support requiring individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse to turn in any guns they own to law enforcement, including 55% who strongly support it.

The research also found that nearly two-thirds of gun owners in Delaware support each of the bill’s main provisions. A summary of this new research can be found here.

“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women. That makes gun violence a women’s issue – for mothers, for families, for me and you,” said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership. “Women can lead the way. Together, we can change our laws.”

“The goal of this legislation is to remove weapons from the mix when there is domestic violence occurring and the victim has sought the protection of the courts,” Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said.

“Victims of domestic violence deserve protection from their abusers,” said Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.“Among other things, this bill makes sure victims of dating violence are protected in the same way victims in more defined relationships already are – by prohibiting their abusers from possessing firearms. “Domestic violence is a scourge on our state and we must do all we can to ensure people who have already exhibited violent behavior can’t access to guns.”

“I find it appalling that there have been 40 gun-related homicides involving intimate partners in Delaware during the past 17 years. Some of these are situations where if we had some protections in place to prevent the abuser from having access to a gun, the victim might still be alive today,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Delaware City. “That is why we are here introducing this bill. We know that domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal if the abuser has access to a gun. The answer is simple: Preventing these individuals from having access to guns will lead to fewer homicides and save lives.”

“I’ve been involved in the issue of domestic violence for 23 years and I was on the Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council the whole time I was in the legislature. We are still fighting these battles today and this legislation will make a difference,” said Liane Sorenson, Director, Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence and former Republican State Senator.

Between 1996 and 2013, guns in Delaware were used in 40 homicides of intimate partners, and in 13 homicides of other people in domestic violence incidents (family members, children, and bystanders killed in these shootings).  Guns were also used in 17 domestic violence-related suicides. Fifty percent of fatal and near-fatal domestic violence incidents in Delaware involve a gun.

Nationally, women in the U.S. are 11 times likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and more than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun.

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