Gun violence in the United States is not inevitable, nor should Americans accept it as the status quo. Congress, the Administration, state and local governments, and the American people need to address this issue for what it is: a crisis that threatens the well-being and peace of mind of urban and rural communities across the country.
Representative Blumenauer has authored a recent report, Enough Is Enough: A Comprehensive Plan to Improve Gun Safety. While there is no single solution to the challenges associated with gun violence, insight can be gained from other challenges that the United States has faced and overcome. Using the examples of automobile safety and tobacco use, two significant public safety challenges where the government responded in ways that dramatically reduced injury and death, success came from defining the problem, identifying risk factors, testing prevention strategies, and ensuring widespread adoption of effective solutions. By applying that same process we can begin to make incremental progress to reduce gun-related deaths and injuries. Even though levels of violence have decreased since their peak several years ago, gun violence is still one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
The stark fact is that Americans suffer more gun violence than any other developed country.
- In an average day in America, there are 31 firearm homicides.
- On average, there are 53 firearm suicides each day, and firearm suicide attempts are lethal 85% of the time - more lethal than other attempted suicide means.
- In 2013 - the most recent year available for statistics - there were 33,636 deaths due to injury by firearm. These include 11,208 homicides, 21,175 suicides, and 505 accidental deaths.
- In 2011 firearm deaths exceeded motor vehicle deaths in 14 states.
Congressman Blumenauer supports these steps to improve gun safety:
Keeping Guns from the Most Dangerous Users: The “private sale loophole” should be closed - no private sales should be conducted without background checks. Comprehensive and uniform background checks will help ensure that only law-abiding, responsible owners have access to guns. More restrictions should be in place to prevent individuals with a pattern of violent or abusive behavior from gun ownership. Law enforcement should have tools and the proper resources to follow up with individuals who fail background checks.
- H.R. 2917 – End Purchase of Firearms by Dangerous Individuals Act – Would require states to establish reporting systems for mental health professions and amends the federal criminal code to make it unlawful for an individual to sell a firearm or ammunition to a person knowing they’ve been committed for mental illness.
- H.R. 2216 – Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act – Amends federal firearms provisions to expand the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners or former dating partners, for the purpose of prohibiting firearm or ammo sales to dangerous individuals.
- H.R.1076 – Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015: Prohibits the sale or distribution of firearms or explosives to any individual whom the Attorney General has determined to be engaged in terrorist activities.
Improving the Mental Health System: We have failed to create a system where people who are mentally ill can receive the treatment they need. Over 60% of all gun-related deaths are suicides and mental illness is a significant risk factor for suicide. Many deaths could be prevented if we developed a mental health system that is more accessible and available.
- H.R. 1211 – The Mental Health in Schools Act – Would assist local communities to develop and apply school-based mental health services.
- H.R. 2646 – Helping Families in Mental Crisis – Strengthens our mental health system.
- H.R. 1854 – Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015 – Would make grants available for mental and criminal justice stakeholders to better treat and respond to individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
- H.R. 2994 – The Safer Communities Act of 2015 – Would strengthen the mental health infrastructure, improving the understanding of violence, strengthen firearm prohibitions and protections for at-risk individuals, and improve and expand the reporting of mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Authorizing and Increasing Research: Simply improving the ability of researchers and the federal government to study and share information about gun violence would allow us to fully understand the impact and implications of current policies. New approaches to reduce gun violence should be evidence-based; research that can be used to promote policies is the first step in achieving this goal.
- H.R. 2612 – Authorizing appropriations to the CDC to support research on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.
- H.R. 224 – To Require the Surgeon General to submit an annual Congressional Report on the effects of gun violence on public health.
- H. Res. 289 – Expresses the sense of the House that gun violence is a public health issue.
Controlling Access to the Most Dangerous Products: Certain types of guns are not safe in any public space. Common sense restrictions on the most dangerous weapons and high-capacity magazines can reduce the carnage that results from their use.
- H.R. 1454 – Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 2015 – Would expand the definition of armor piercing ammunition to include handgun ammunition that could penetrate body armor.
- H.R. 752 – Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act – Would prohibit the possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device.
- H.R. 1745 – Assault Firearms Elimination and Reduction for our Streets Act – Would provide $2,000 tax credits for surrendering an assault weapon.
- H.R. 3497 – Protecting Law Enforcement Armor (PLEA) Act – Would ban armor-piercing handguns.
- H.R. 2699 – Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act of 2015 – Amends the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 to revise what are prohibited firearms to include any firearm: (1) that, after removal of all parts other than major components, is not as detectable by walk-through metal detectors as the Security Exemplar; or (2) any major component of which, if subjected to inspection by the types of detection devices commonly used at airports for security screening, would not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component.
Increasing Product Safety: Firearms are specifically excluded from regulation under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act. As inherently dangerous products, guns should be tested and regulated to ensure consistency and safety for the consumer. Products intended to keep children safe from guns and to prevent accidents are available and their use should be promoted if not required. Gun owners should have liability insurance.
- H.R. 225 – Firearm Safety Act of 2015 – Would allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issues safety standards for firearms.
- H.R. 2546 – Firearm Risk Protection Act of 2015 – Would require gun purchasers to have liability insurance.
- H. Con. Res. 59 – Expressing Support for Designating a National ASK Day – To encourage parents to begin asking the question "Is there an unlocked gun in your house?" before their child visits other homes.
Empowering Healthcare Professionals: Doctors are under increasing scrutiny and some may face disciplinary action for discussing guns with patients. Doctors should not only be able to discuss all matters that affect their patient’s health - they should be encouraged to do so.
- H.R. 3926 – Gun Violence Research Act – Would reaffirm the authority of the CDC to research gun violence; encourage the expansion of the National Violent Death Reporting System, and protect the confidential doctor-patient relationship from asking a patient about speaking to patients about gun safety.
Effectively Regulating Sellers: A small number of gun dealers provide a disproportionately large number of weapons to criminals. Congress should empower the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take steps to ensure dealers are complying with federal law and to focus compliance on the few unscrupulous gun dealers.
- H.R. 2916 – Fire Sale Loophole Closing Act – Would prohibit a gun dealer whose license is revoked or denied renewal from converting the gun inventory into a private collection to be sold without the requirement of performing a background check on the purchaser.
- H.R. 2380 – The Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2015 – Would require gun show operators to register, keep records, and submit to inspections.
- H.R. 2871 – Keeping Guns from Criminals Act – Would make it easier to prosecute private sellers who make irresponsible firearm sales.
- H.R. 2283 – Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act – Would require online sales of ammunition to be performed by a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer.
- H.R. 1217 – King-Thompson Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act – Would close gun sale loopholes by requiring background checks on all sales. Also bans federal government from creating a gun registry and makes misuse of firearm records a felony.
- H.R. 2732 – Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act – Would authorize the AG to award grants to states and other local entities for the development, implementation, and evaluation of handgun purchaser licensing requirements.
- H.R. 3051 – Background Check Completion Act – Would eliminate the "Charleston Loophole" which allows sellers to transfer a firearm if the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has been unable to complete a background check within three business days.
Enforcing Existing Laws: Enforcing existing laws is a struggle with the gun lobby actively working to subvert good policies by attacking budgets and undermining their effectiveness. While enacting new policies will be necessary to create safer communities, enforcing existing laws is an important part of the solution.
- H.R. 3395 – Trafficking Reduction and Criminal Enforcement Act – Would help law enforcement deep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people by improving gun trace data and repealing laws that restrict law enforcement’s ability to enforce existing gun laws.
- H.R. 2939 – Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act – Amends several appropriations laws to remove limitations on the authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to conduct activities related to the administration of federal firearms laws.
- H.R. 410 – Pause for Safety Act of 2015 – Would authorize grants to assist states and local law enforcement to carry out gun violence prevention orders, assessments, and wellness checks.
Mitigating Loss of Life in Shootings: First responders such as police and fire departments, ambulances, and emergency rooms must be able to respond where tragedy strikes. Schools and public facilities personnel should receive appropriate training to deal with active-shooter situations.
- H. Amdt. 289 to H.R. 2578 – An amendment to increase funding for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act programs by $2 million, including funding for crisis-intervention training for state and local law enforcement.