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David C.
Democrat RI 1

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  • Gun Violence Prevention

    by Representative David N. Cicilline

    Posted on 2016-07-05

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    CICILLINE. Mr. Speaker, a little over a week and a half ago, my colleagues and I came to the House floor. We came to the floor to protest the inaction of this Republican Congress, the tyranny of the majority, to act on gun violence prevention measures--their deliberate inaction in the face of 33,000 deaths caused by gun violence every year. We came to demand substantive action to address our country's epidemic of gun violence.

    Yet, today we will be presented with legislation promoted by the NRA that fails to address this serious problem. H.R. 4237 does not close or otherwise address the terror gap that allows known or suspected terrorists in the United States to legally buy guns.

    Instead, this bill handicaps law enforcement, creating an impossibly burdensome process and allowing terrorists to take advantage of the Charleston loophole. In fact, H.R. 4237 doesn't just leave the loophole open, which led to the loss of nine lives at the Emanuel AME Church, it reinforces it and the terror gap.

    Under this legislation, to prevent the transfer of a firearm, the government will be required to file an emergency petition, schedule a hearing, provide the suspect with notice and counsel, and win the hearing all within 72 hours of the attempted purchase. And even if the government is able to win the hearing, it can only prevent the transfer if the court finds that the suspected terrorist committed, attempted to, or will commit an act of terrorism. Put another way, the government can only prevent a gun sale to a suspected terrorist if they can arrest the person for terrorist activity within 3 days of an attempted purchase.

    Ultimately, this legislation does not provide any meaningful safeguards to prevent terrorists from purchasing guns. Sadly, it is nothing more than a political tactic to avoid responsibility, a contrived effort to look busy and feign concern while thousands of Americans lose their lives to gun violence. The American people are smarter than this.

    We have a moral responsibility to do something meaningful. The American people demand that we do more, that we do something, that we do anything to help prevent another mass tragedy in this country. Make no mistake, this legislation falls short of a good-faith effort to save lives.

    The GAO found that individuals on the terrorist watch list were able to pass a background check and legally purchase a firearm 2,043 times between February of 2004 and December of 2014. The FBI was only able to prevent 10 percent of these purchases.

    As we all, unfortunately, learned on June 12, when we fail to prevent dangerous individuals from getting their hands on guns, we put the lives of Americans at risk. But there is legislation that the House can consider that will reduce gun violence.

    First, H.R. 1076, the no fly, no buy bill, would effectively close the terror gap by providing the Department of Justice with the discretion to block gun sales to terrorist suspects. It will preserve due process for individuals who were mistakenly listed to appeal their denial.

    Second, H.R. 1217 would implement universal background checks for all commercial gun sales. It is a measure supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people. And empirical research shows that universal background checks for all handgun sales have lowered levels of gun violence in those States where that occurs. Nationally, 34 percent of gun sales and 40 percent of all gun transfers occur without a background check.

    {time} 1215 This legislation would represent an important step toward closing this loophole and reducing gun violence.

    I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to bring these two bills to the floor, to respond to the demands of the American people, to do something about the pandemic of gun violence, to do something meaningful that will actually reduce gun violence in this country and protect the American people, as we are sworn to do.

    I know I speak for all of my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus. We will continue to fight in every way that we can until we can persuade our Republican colleagues to bring these bills to the floor, to do something about the carnage of mass gun violence in this country.


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