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Robert S.
Democrat VA 3

About Rep. Robert
  • Congressional Black Caucus

    by Representative Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

    Posted on 2016-01-11

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    SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from New York and the gentlewoman from Ohio for organizing tonight's Special Order to focus on the toll that gun violence has taken on communities across America and, especially, the disproportionate impact it has had within communities of color.

    Tonight's conversation comes at an important time. On average, every day more than 30 people are killed by firearms, many in mass murders.

    Now, rather than do what they say is celebrate the problem, I want to talk about solutions. Last Tuesday, the President announced the executive actions that his administration will take [[Page H268]] to prevent gun violence. I commend the President for taking this action, in light of the current congressional leadership's refusal to responsibly address this epidemic.

    These executive actions will ensure stronger enforcement of current laws and will reduce the number of lives lost to gun violence. To begin with, the President's executive actions will narrow the ``gun show'' and Internet loopholes by actually enforcing licensing requirements for gun dealers and overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient.

    Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform criminal background checks for all gun sales, and only those individuals deemed to be ``engaged in the business'' of dealing in guns are required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the ATF.

    The executive actions make it clear that the commonsense proposition that anyone making a profit from the sale of guns, or who regularly makes gun sales or earns a livelihood from gun sales, is, in fact, engaged in the business and therefore must obtain a license and conduct required criminal background checks, even if those sales occur at gun shows or over the Internet.

    {time} 2030 The question of whether someone is engaged in business will be determined by normal legal standards as opposed to people just declaring themselves to be exempt, which is going on now. Some of these people are even making a living selling firearms. They need to get a license. This is the present law, and the President has said that he will enforce it.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation, as part of executive actions, will overhaul its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the NICS system, to make it more effective and efficient by hiring more than 230 additional examiners and other staff so that the Bureau can process background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improve its notification of local authorities when prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to purchase a gun.

    These people are currently breaking the law when they illegally try to buy a firearm, and local law enforcement officials need to be informed. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this system has already caught more than 2 million people trying to buy guns illegally, and they need to be held accountable for breaking the law.

    Furthermore, dealers will also be required to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit. This transparency and accountability will ensure that law enforcement will be notified and can begin investigations when these losses occur.

    Executive actions will also leverage the buying power of the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun technology. When the Federal Government begins buying guns using that kind of technology, it will make it more likely that this technology will be used. There is technology that makes it impossible for anyone other than the true owner to use weapons, and the more purchases the Federal Government makes, the more likely it is that technology will actually be installed in future weapons.

    The President has also directed the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis and to explore potential ways to further its use and to encourage research to more broadly improve gun safety.

    The President's plan also proposes a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health treatment to ensure that people who need help do not fall through the cracks of the mental health system. This is in addition to the huge increases in mental health funding under the Affordable Care Act. Mental health services are considered essential services, and so now virtually all health insurance policies include mental health coverage.

    While modest and within the President's executive authority, these executive actions will go a long way in keeping guns out of the hands of people who never should be able to purchase them in the first place. But that is executive action. Congress needs to act so that more can be done to actually protect citizens from gun violence.

    The House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force has consistently reiterated that Washington has a moral obligation to do something to address our Nation's gun violence epidemic. The most effective way to address this epidemic is through comprehensive, evidence-based policy proposals.

    Our task force has put forth several proposals that will go a long way in achieving these goals. These proposals include reinstating and strengthening the assault weapon ban, reducing the size of magazines, implementing universal background checks, cracking down on illegal gun trafficking and straw purchases, improving our mental health system, and implementing comprehensive, locally tailored, evidence-based violence prevention and intervention programs.

    The gentleman from California, Representative Mike Thompson, is the chair of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and he has introduced a resolution to establish a select committee of the House to study gun violence. That resolution is cosponsored by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and 11 cochairs of the task force. The proposed select committee would be comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats who would study the research and issue a final report and recommendations, including legislative proposals, within 60 days of its establishment.

    It would study and make recommendations to address many issues, including the causes of mass shootings, methods to improve the Federal firearms purchaser background check system, connections between access to firearms and dangerously mentally ill individuals, Federal penalties for trafficking and straw purchasing of firearms, loopholes that allow some domestic abusers continued access to firearms, linkages between firearms and suicide, gun violence's effect on public health, the correlation between State gun violence prevention laws and the incidence of gun violence, the importance of having reliable, accurate information on gun violence and its toll on our Nation, the implementation of effective gun violence prevention laws in accordance with the Second Amendment to our Constitution, and the rates of gun violence in large metropolitan areas.

    Mr. Speaker, by taking a deliberate, research-based approach to gun violence, treating it as we would a public health challenge, we can significantly reduce the ravages of gun violence.

    The President is limited by his executive authority on what alone he can do to address this epidemic. Long-term reforms can only be achieved through congressional action. I hope that the leadership of the Congress will follow the President's lead and act in a bipartisan basis to address this critical issue using public health strategies and evidence-based proposals.

    Again, Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New York and the gentlelady from Ohio for coordinating this Special Order.

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