A picture of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

About Rep. Sheila
  • Protecting the American People from Gun Violence

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, what the new year gives us is an opportunity to refresh, to regroup, to look forward to opportunities in this instance and in this august body to protect the American people.

    So today I rise with a great deal of applause and enthusiasm, words that I think do not connote the presentation made by President Obama yesterday, for it is not often the American people can see the deepness of our hearts, the affection we have for them, and the concern that we have over loss of life.

    The President did all of that. In his teary expressions, he pierced the hearts of Americans, and he should have pierced the hearts of the Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats. There is no doubt that thousands are dying from gun violence. There is no doubt that people with guns kill. There is no doubt that more people get guns who should not have guns.

    I am particularly excited by the President's thoughtful and collaborative work, along with that of Attorney General Lynch and a number of my colleagues, and of, certainly, the House Judiciary Committee, in particular our ranking member, John Conyers, those of us Democrats on the committee, and particularly those on the Crime Subcommittee, on which I have the privilege of serving as the ranking member.

    We have worked together to have an agenda on criminal justice. The issues dealing with guns deal with criminal justice. Why should we run away from the wide and well-known proposition that there are people who are getting guns without their having had background checks? Tragically, in my own community, an off-duty officer was attempting to sell guns in an open parking lot or in an open area in which he thought he would be protected. What ensued? A gun battle.

    I don't know how those individuals purchasing those guns could have had background checks, but I would say that that is certainly not representative of the many in law enforcement with whom I have engaged who have already said that guns kill and that so many guns in America-- more guns, we understand, than there are people--provide for a deadly mixture.

    {time} 1030 So I think it is important for the American people to know that the Federal Government has been working, unlike some have said. In 2015, NCIS received more than 22.2 million background checks, an average of more than 63,000 per day. By law, a gun dealer can complete a sale to a customer if the background check comes back clean or has taken more than 3 days.

    I think, in this instance, we need to look at the legislation of Mr. Clyburn, who indicates you must have a background check. I also think we should look and work legislatively with the President. Why would we be against hiring 200-plus more ATF officers? Why would we be against putting more resources in mental health? I am very proud that I have introduced H.R. 4316--this bill is the Gun Violence Reduction Resources Act--just last evening to add those 200-plus ATF officers. I ask my colleagues to join me. I introduced that with Congresswoman Robin Kelly.

    I introduced, with Representative Karen Bass and Congresswoman Napolitano, H.R. 4315, the Mental Health Access and Gun Violence Act of 2016, to increase the resources necessary, yesterday.

    Mr. Speaker, how many more need to die? Do we still need to have an amnesia check on Connecticut, San [[Page H21]] Bernardino, Columbine, or Oregon, and many places beyond? Guns must be restrained. The President's mission is correct--more data for secure technology, more NCIS data in order to run through those background checks appropriately.

    Remember Charleston, South Carolina? Remember the message? He got the guns because 3 days had passed. And he killed nine people worshipping in a church.

    So it is important, Mr. Speaker, that Congress owns up to its own responsibility, not one that says the Second Amendment is being undermined. It is not. You can never undermine our Constitution. It is a procedural structure that we are not engaged in. We are only trying to provide a guidepost to save lives of children and families. I am looking forward to working with the Judiciary Committee in the House and the Senate to look at constructive legislation.

    Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I am saddened that again we come on the floor with Planned Parenthood legislation that talks to the very heart of America, quality of health care, protecting women in terms of cervical cancer. This is a nonstarter. Vote against it. Protect American women. Protect families and children against gun violence.

    Mr. Speaker, upon taking office, every Member of Congress makes a solemn pledge: to protect and defend the American people. This is the most important oath we take as elected officials--and, to honor this promise, we must do everything in our power to stem gun violence in our nation.

    Yet, after another mass shooting and countless acts of gun violence in communities across our country every day, House Republicans are still unwilling to act to stop gun violence and save lives in American communities.

    The Democrats have been calling for an immediate vote on the bipartisan King-Thompson Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to strengthen the lifesaving background checks that keep guns out of the wrong hands.

    This Congress has a moral obligation to do our part to end the gun violence epidemic. Now is the time for Republicans to join Democrats in protecting the lives of Americans by taking common sense steps to save lives.

    The Administration is announcing two new executive actions that will help strengthen the federal background check system and keep guns out of the wrong hands. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a regulation to clarify who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law for reasons related to mental health, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed regulation to address barriers preventing states from submitting limited information on those persons to the federal background check system.

    Too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives as a result of gun violence. While the vast majority of Americans who experience a mental illness are not violent, in some cases when persons with a mental illness do not receive the treatment they need, the result can be tragedies such as homicide or suicide.

    The Administration takes a comprehensive approach to mental health issues by expanding coverage of mental health services so care is affordable, launching a national conversation on mental health to reduce stigma associated with having a mental illness and getting help, directing funds we have now to improve mental health facilities, and proposing more funds be used for efforts such as training additional mental health professionals.

    At the same time, the Administration is committed to making sure that anyone who may pose a danger to themselves or others does not have access to a gun. The federal background check system is the most effective way to assure that such individuals are not able to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer. To date, background checks have prevented over two million guns from falling into the wrong hands.

    The Administration's two new executive actions will help ensure that better and more reliable information makes its way into the background check system. The Administration also continues to call on Congress to pass common-sense gun safety legislation and to expand funding to increase access to mental health services.

    PROGRESS TO STRENGTHEN THE FEDERAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM Over the past year, the Administration has taken several steps to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to run background checks on those who buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers to make sure they are not prohibited by law from owning a firearm. For example: The President directed federal agencies to make all relevant records, including criminal history records and information related to persons prohibited from having guns for mental health reasons, available to the federal background check system. This effort is beginning to bear fruit. In the first nine months after the President's directive, federal agencies have made available to the NICS over 1.2 million additional records identifying persons prohibited from possessing firearms, nearly a 23 percent increase from the number of records federal agencies had made available by the end of January.


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