Mass Shootingsby Representative Mike Quigley
Posted on 2015-12-08
QUIGLEY. Mr. Speaker, last week's shooting in San Bernardino,
California, happened to be the second shooting of the day and the 355th
of the year, equating to more mass shootings than days in the year. The
social media pages of some of the most influential leaders in Congress
expressed sympathy, thoughts, and prayers to the victims and their
families. But what many failed to express was a commitment to act on
this issue to make mass shootings and horrendous gun violence a far
less common instance in America.
While no grand solution exists to end all gun violence, we know from the experience of other countries that a combination of small but practical policy solutions can severely reduce it. But Congress continues to choose inaction.
Last week, immediately following the devastating news coming out of Paris and San Bernardino, a majority of Members blocked the House from even debating bipartisan legislation to close the outrageous loophole that allows suspects on the FBI's terrorist watch list to buy guns. It may be hard for some to believe, but in the U.S., individuals on the Federal terrorist watch list are shockingly still not prohibited from purchasing firearms.
Quite simply, Mr. Speaker, this means you can be on the terrorist watch list, considered by the Federal Government to be a potential risk to the national security of the United States and be prohibited from boarding a plane, but still have the ability to walk into any Walmart around the country and purchase a semiautomatic weapon.
Current Federal law prohibits nine categories of dangerous people from purchasing or owning firearms; suspected terrorists on FBI watch lists, however, are not one of them. I don't have to explain to Members of the House the growing terrorist threat that this country is facing from lone-wolf extremists which are often unpredictable and incredibly difficult to thwart. Even just one unsophisticated lone-wolf extremist with a gun can do a remarkable amount of damage.
This isn't some sort of theoretical threat either. A GAO investigation found that individuals on terrorist watch lists successfully purchased guns 1,321 times between February 2004 and December 2010. And that was before the rise of ISIS and their persistent social media campaign to recruit homegrown terrorists.
Mr. Speaker, I have worked with Congresswoman Lowey in the Appropriations Committee on a commonsense amendment to allow the Attorney General to deny firearms sales to individuals known or suspected to be involved in terrorism. Unfortunately, our attempts to pass this amendment in committee have been rebuffed every time. But this week, we have an opportunity to change that. This week, we can show our enemies, intent on destroying Americans and our way of life, that Congress cares more about protecting the safety of its citizens than it does about the gun lobby by finally closing this terror gap in our gun laws.
The American people, gun owning and not, overwhelmingly support responsible, commonsense gun reforms. If this isn't the definition of responsible and commonsense reform, I don't know what is. There is also widespread support specifically among gun owners for closing the gap. In 2013, a survey found that 80 percent of non-NRA gun owners support prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining guns. Mr. Speaker, 71 percent of NRA gun owners support prohibiting people on this watch list from obtaining guns.
It is naive to think that al Qaeda and ISIS are not paying attention to what is happening here in Congress. Fixing this loophole is simple, responsible, and the right thing to do for public safety. Let's not pass on this critical opportunity to close a dangerous loophole that threatens our national security.