Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly Applaud Hawaii Governor David Ige’s Signing of Bipartisan Legislation to Help Keep Guns Out of Hands of Stalkers & People With Sexual Assault Convictions

June 23, 2016 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, applauded Hawaii Governor David Ige’s signature today of a bipartisan proposal, House Bill 625, which will help keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives by closing loopholes in Hawaii law that allow people with misdemeanor stalking and sexual assault convictions to legally buy guns.

“This is a major victory for common sense and another defeat for the gun lobby.Republicans and Democrats came together to do the responsible thing: make commonsense changes to Hawaii’s laws that respect the rights of law-abiding Hawaiians, will help guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and make Hawaii a safer place to live,” said Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly. “We are grateful to the domestic violence survivors, advocates, and public safety officials from across Hawaii who called on their elected officials to support this bipartisan change to strengthen Hawaii’s gun laws. And we are grateful to Governor Ige for signing this bill that will help protect Hawaiians from gun violence.”

According to a 2014 study, 41.8 percent of women murdered in Hawaii are killed by an intimate partner in a domestic violence incident. Of those murders, more than 30 percent were committed with a gun. [Center for American Progress]

Retired Military Leaders Gens. Petraeus, McChrystal, Hayden, Adm. Allen and Others Call on Senate to Support Bipartisan Compromise Legislation By Senator Susan Collins to Close the “Terror Gap” for Gun Sales, Help Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Terror Suspects

June 23, 2016 – In a letter sent today to the United States Senate, former high-ranking military leaders – including General David Petraeus (USA, Ret.), General Stanley McChrystal (USA, Ret.), General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.) and Admiral Thad Allen, USCG (Ret.) – asked the Senate to support compromise bipartisan legislation authored by Maine Senator Susan Collins to close the dangerous “terror gap” for gun sales that lets known and suspected terrorists legally purchase firearms.

The former military leaders are members of the Advisory Committee of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, a coalition that includes veterans from every branch of our military who are committed to urging our elected leaders to enact responsible change that respects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, helps keep guns out of the wrong hands, and saves lives. The coalition was created by Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly (USN, Ret.), and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the Co-Founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS). The Veterans Coalition for Common Sense is a project of Americans for Responsible Solutions.

The full letter is here and follows below:

June 23, 2016

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Members of the United States Senate,

As veterans and dedicated servants of the national security of the United States, we closely follow development of terrorist threats against the homeland – and the response of our elected leaders to those threats.

Active shooter terrorism is increasingly a global concern – the attacks in Mumbai that killed 174 people at hotels and other landmarks in 2008, the Al-Shabaab sponsored massacre of 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013, and the two strikes in Paris in 2015 that left 12 and 130 dead, respectively, among many others.

ISIS both claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris and sent a direct warning to the U.S.: “We swear that we will strike America.” Then, on Dec. 2, 2015, we saw the attacks in San Bernardino, which left 14 dead and 21 injured. Last week, an individual who had been investigated by the FBI for terrorist connections perpetrated the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

In the face of such a threat, we are not doing everything we can to prevent future incidences of active shooter terrorism in America. In fact, to this day there persists in our laws a dangerous hole that allows suspected terrorists to legally buy firearms. For example, the federal government keeps something called the “no-fly list” that prevents potentially dangerous individuals from boarding commercial flights. However, while we have determined these people are too dangerous to fly, we allow them to buy guns. This loophole, termed the “terror gap,” is a vulnerability that Congress can easily address.

The implications of the “terror gap” are clear: it allows dangerous people to get their hands on guns. According to the Government Accountability Office, known or suspected terrorists have attempted to purchase guns or explosives from licensed gun dealers more than 2,200 times since 2004. They successfully obtained weapons 91% of the time.

As a group, we put service above politics. There is a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators that is doing the same thing. Led by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, they have crafted a compromise bill that would prevent suspected terrorists on two lists, the no-fly list and the selectee list, from legally buying guns, while providing critical protections for due process of law. Importantly, this legislation also protects the Second Amendment rights of law abiding, responsible Americans. Had this bill been law, the FBI might have been able to detect and stop the Orlando killer.

We request you vote “yes” on the Collins-Heitkamp compromise amendment. Thank you for your service in Congress and for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

Admiral Thad Allen, USCG (Ret.)

General George W. Casey, USA (Ret.)

General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.)

General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.)

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.)

General James T. Hill, USA (Ret.)

Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.)

General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Admiral Eric T. Olson, USN (Ret.)

General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.)

General William E. Ward, USA (Ret.)

Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.)

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, USA (Ret.)

Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, USA (Ret.)

 

Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly Applaud Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s Signature of Bill to Close a Dangerous Loophole in the State’s Gun Background Check Laws

JUNE 22, 2016 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, today applauded Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s signature of a bill that strengthens the state’s gun background check laws by closing a dangerous loophole that allows gun sales to proceed before the criminal background check is complete.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in Delaware from 2013 to 2015, 40 individuals successfully bought guns due to this loophole and were later determined to be prohibited under federal law from possessing a gun. In each case, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had to deploy officers to retrieve the weapons.

This legislation, HB 325, comes on the heels of Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly’s visit to Wilmington in March and launch of the new bipartisan Delaware Coalition for Common Sense.

“This is a real victory for responsibility and safer communities. Leaders in the legislature heard the call for action by Delaware’s law enforcement and public safety officials, and came together to pass a law that helps strengthen Delaware’s background check system and keep guns out of the wrong hands,” said Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly. “We are grateful to the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear), Rep. Edward Osienski (D-Newark), and Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark), for standing up for common sense and for leading the fight to close this gap in Delaware law. We are grateful to Governor Markell for signing this commonsense proposal into law and ensuring that Delaware continues to lead the way in reducing gun violence. This smart law will save lives – and that’s worth it.”

ABOUT THIS BACKGROUND CHECK 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 a 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. Licensed firearms dealers may proceed with a firearm transaction if a requested background check has not been processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) within three business days.

  • This loophole has allowed firearm transactions that otherwise would be denied to proceed, resulting in potentially dangerous individuals purchasing guns from lawful sellers on a technicality. According to the FBI, from 2010-2014, gun dealers completed 15,729 gun sales to ineligible people 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.

Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly Call on the U.S. Senate to Vote to Close Gun Law Loopholes, Reject Gun Lobby-Backed Proposals

June 20, 2016 – Following our nation’s deadliest mass shooting, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, today called on the U.S. Senate to vote to close the loopholes in our guns laws, help keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives.

The Senate will vote tonight on two gun safety proposals, including legislation by California Senator Diane Feinstein to close the loopholes that known and suspected terrorists legally buy guns, and a proposal by Senator Chris Murphy to close background check loopholes and require background checks for all gun sales. Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly’s statement:

“Tonight the United States Senate will have the opportunity to break the gun lobby’s grip and to do the responsible thing: close the loopholes in our laws that let terror suspects, felons, and domestic abusers have easy access to firearms,” said Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly. “In wake of the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history and with our national gun violence raging, we urge the members of the Senate – Republicans and Democrats – to do the responsible thing. The American people will soon learn whether their elected leaders in the Senate are on the side of the corporate gun lobby or the vast majority of Americans – including gun owners like us – who support responsible measures to help keep guns out of dangerous hands. We, along with nearly one million Americans for Responsible Solutions supporters across our country, will be paying close attention to how each and every Senator votes. After all, lives are at stake.”

ABOUT THE GUN BILLS BEFORE THE SENATE TONIGHT

Closing the “Terror Gap”: Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) Amendment #4720

  • Under current law, the Department of Justice lacks the authority to deny gun purchases to known or suspected terrorists. According to Government Accountability Office (GAO), this had led to over 2,000 instances where suspected terrorists attempted to purchase firearms between 2004-2014, and 91% of the time, they succeeded;

  • This amendment closes the “terror gap” by giving the Attorney General the ability to deny a gun transfer to a known or suspected terrorist when that individual presents a threat to public safety and there is reasonable suspicion to believe the person has been engaged in terrorist activity;

  • The amendment would prevent known or suspected terrorists from acquiring firearms or explosives and would also prevent them from receiving various licenses or permits to buy, sell, manufacture, and import firearms and explosives;

  • This amendment is consistent with the due process afforded to other gun purchasers whose transactions are denied;

  • The amendment allows the Attorney General to develop procedures to protect classified information and requires the Attorney General to be notified when a person investigated for terrorism within the past five years attempts to purchase a gun;

  • This amendment is supported by the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and major law enforcement organizations.

Closing Loopholes in Our Gun Background Check Laws: Senator Chris Murphy (CT) Amendment #4750

  • This amendment, also known as the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016, would require background checks on all gun sales;

  • It is estimated that up to 40% of gun transfers occur through unlicensed sellers without a background check – this amendment would close this gaping loophole and prevent prohibited purchasers like convicted felons and domestic abusers from purchasing guns;

  • This amendment also strengthens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by requiring the Attorney General to work with states to develop individual 4-year plans and benchmarks to ensure that records are submitted to NICS;

  • The Attorney General would incentivize compliance and hold states accountable for failing to meet these benchmarks by reducing federal criminal justice grants to non-compliant states;

  • This amendment requires gun owners to report to law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen;

  • Finally, this amendment requires federal agencies to certify to the Attorney General that they have submitted all relevant records to the NICS database.

The Gun Lobby’s Plan to Weaken the Background Check System: Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) Amendment #4751

  • Under current law, prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers and convicted felons can skirt the background check system by purchasing guns through unlicensed sellers without a background check.

  • This gun lobby-backed amendment does nothing to close this dangerous loophole; it does not hold states accountable for withholding records from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Instead, this amendment weakens current law and does not force states to comply with established standards to receive grant funding;

  • This amendment would allow gun purchases and possession by many potentially dangerously mentally ill Americans who are currently prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun, including some people who have been recently released from mental institutions;

  • This amendment creates a process for law enforcement to be notified when someone being investigated or who has been investigated for terrorism in the past five years attempts to buy a firearm, but does nothing to stop the sale.

The Gun Lobby’s Unworkable “Terror Gap” Legislation (Senator John Cornyn (TX) Amendment #4749

  • This amendment being supported by the gun lobby would not close the “terror gap” that currently allows known and suspected terrorists to legally buy guns and explosives. Instead, it creates a burdensome process with high standards to be completed in an unreasonably short period of time;

  • This amendment authorizes the Attorney General to delay the transfer of a gun or explosive for just three business days to individuals who are or have been investigated as a known or suspected terrorist in the previous five years;

  • This amendment places unrealistic demands on our courts and law enforcement and would allow many suspected terrorists to receive firearms or explosives by default after three days;

  • To keep a known or suspected terrorist from acquiring a firearm or explosive by default after three days, the Attorney General would have to file a petition in federal court, the court would have to schedule a hearing and provide the suspect actual notice and the opportunity to appear with counsel, and the court would have to rule on the petition – all within three business days of the attempted transfer. The suspected terrorist could too easily run out the clock by avoiding or delaying receipt of notice of the court hearing;

  • Even if the court manages to consider all necessary evidence in time, the court could only prevent the firearm or explosives transfer if it finds “probable cause” that the person has committed or will commit an act of terrorism, meaning it could only deny a firearm to a suspected terrorist if the court found sufficient evidence to arrest that person for terrorist activity. This standard would likely have been too high to prevent the Orlando shooter from acquiring firearms or explosives even when he appeared on the FBI’s terror watchlists;

  • Finally, this amendment would do nothing to prevent known and suspected terrorists from receiving various licenses and permits to buy, sell, manufacture, and import firearms or explosives.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly Statement on the First Anniversary of the Gun Tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina

June 17, 2016 – Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the below statement marking today’s first anniversary of the gun tragedy at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina:

“Nearly one year ago, Americans began to hear the horrible news: a dangerous person had murdered nine of our fellow Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Once again, a gun tragedy had visited one of our nation’s houses of worship. In an act of hate and terror, a gun was turned on our fellow Americans because of the color of their skin.

“Following the tragedy in Charleston, lawmakers expressed their outrage, their thoughts, and their prayers. Americans called for our leaders to close the dangerous loophole that allowed the perpetrator to get his gun before the background check was complete. But after those taken had been laid to rest and the cameras left Charleston to go cover the next gun tragedy, Congress did something truly remarkable: nothing.

“We pray for continued healing for those whose loved ones were taken, for the congregants of Emanuel AME Church, for the entire Charleston community. And we must all continue to honor the lives of those taken in Charleston one year ago through action – to reduce gun violence and condemn racism.”