HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE PASSES BIPARTISAN BACKGROUND CHECKS ACT & CHARLESTON LOOPHOLE BILL

Feb 13, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 23-15 and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 by a vote of 21-14.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement after the markup:

“I am pleased that both H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 passed out of the Committee today, making them one step closer to passing the U.S. House of Representatives. Although we know the issue of gun violence won’t be fixed overnight, there are steps Congress can and must take to address it. Closing loopholes in the current background check system are long-overdue legislative measures that will help address this national crisis.

“I commend Reps. Mike Thompson and Peter King for their efforts to advance H.R. 8, legislation to require background checks on all firearm sales. Equally, I commend Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn for introducing H.R. 1112, legislation to close the dangerous ‘Charleston loophole,’ a shortcoming in the current law that enables some firearms to be transferred by licensed gun dealers before the required background checks have been completed, which was the case in the tragic hate-crime shooting that took place in 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I am heartened by the mobilization of so many Americans who are making their voices heard and advocating for passage of legislation to prevent gun violence.  Both of the bills passed out of the Committee today tackle real problems within our current system.

[Speaking out to our legislators does make a difference!]

More at https://judiciary.house.gov/news/press-releases/house-judiciary-committee-passes-bipartisan-background-checks-act-charleston 

BACKGROUND: Under current law, background checks are conducted by licensed gun dealers only. Unlicensed sellers do not have to conduct a background check, even if the seller sells a large number of guns. 

H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, would make it illegal for any person who is not a licensed firearm importer, manufacturer, or dealer to transfer a firearm to any other person who is not licensed, without a background check. The bill also provides a number of exemptions to this requirement, including gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense. 

H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, addresses a loophole that contributed to the tragic hate-crime murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The shooter was not legally allowed to possess a firearm as a result of drug charges, but he still was able to purchase his gun from a licensed dealer, who made the decision to transfer after three business days had elapsed, despite not having received a definitive response from the background check system.

League of Women Voters

Gun Safety Coalition call report

February 4, 2019

7:00 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.

The telephone conference was opened by a welcome from Patti Brigham, LWV of Florida.  

Oshane McCrary of the Center for American Progress gave an update on Federal action:

On WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, for the first time in 8 years, there will be a hearing for a bill to enact universal background checks.  It is HR 8 – The Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019, and would require background checks for every firearm purchase.  It will be marked up and voted on in the next couple of weeks.  This is the number #1 action call right now…..contact your representatives and encourage them to vote for its passage.  It has 228 co-sponsors; 5 of whom are Republicans.  It looks likely to pass, as there are 218 votes needed.  It is being heard in the Judiciary Committee

On the Center for American Progress website (at the very bottom of its opening page) is a powerful two-minute video about letting our legislators know that we will vote on the basis of support for gun reform.  

 

The guest speakers were introduced.  Amber Goodwin and Awo Eni were with us from the Community Justice Action Fund.

Amber is located in Houston.  She has been working with Gabbi Gifford.  When the Charleston shooting occurred four years ago (Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church) she became more active.  Communities of Color were being affected by gun violence, but nothing was being legislated.  The Community Justice Reform Coalition saw that the urban community wasn’t being included in the dialogue.  She spoke of the need for policy to be let by survivors, in communities affected by gun violence.

There are policies that are evidence-based – proven efficacy.  The goal is to put the responsibility back on the policy makers:

  1. Fund proven methods to reduce gun violence.  The Black community is decimated by homicides.  There are proven methods of intervention.
  2. Create trust, justice, and equity between communities and law enforcement.
  3. Support initiatives to reduce gender-based violence.  We must support domestic policies to include intimate partner violence.
  4. Children must be protected from gun violence.  Education on safe storage; guns are not acceptable in the hands of children.
  5. Close dangerous loopholes with gun dealers. Address traffic between states.
  6. Remove barriers to research. Gun violence must be funded as a Public Health Issue, with support from local Health Departments and the CDC.
  7. Address hate crime head on!  Acknowledge the connection between hate and gun violence.

 

It is our responsibility to pass legislation to make our communities safer.  We must support positive legislation, and introduce it where none exists.

We must partner with local organizations, and uplift local organizations.

 

Call-ins:

Florida is seeing success with Child Access Prevention through promoting trigger locks.  They have support from the Veterans Administration.  They are actively seeking funding to promote this initiative.

Florida is also working on legislation to ban assault weapons.  They plan to put it on the ballot in 2020 as a Citizens’ Initiative.

Discussion on the number of guns in the Black urban community:  Many are stolen, and there is an illegal flow from surrounding states.  Chicago has very strict gun laws, but there is a known stream coming from Gary and Milwaukee – in states with weaker laws.  It was also stated that communities need resources and skills to improve life so that they don’t resort to using guns.

Violence Against Women Act.  The act expired during the government shutdown.  There is no available funding, so action must be taken to see that it is renewed and funded.  As an example of its reach – during 2017 there were over 350,000 calls to its hotline.  

There also needs to be research into the intersection of suicide and gun access.   We must encourage resources for trauma and healing within communities.  Law enforcement officers are also increasingly resorting to suicide.

Doctors are becoming more vocal.  The Giffords PAC and Doctors for America are promoting hospital-based interventions.  All members are encouraged to reach out to doctors via email.  

State updates:

Florida – is expanding the Guardian Program – to arm teachers.  It is being expanded to include all teachers who are trained.  There is tremendous push-back from teachers.

Indiana has a bill introduced HB 1284.  It would expand Indiana’s dangerous “Stand Your Ground” law by granting civil immunity to people who use deadly force against their fellow citizens.  This bill would make it nearly impossible to take shooters to court for harming others.

The meeting ended at 7:45.

Again,  

ACTION ITEMS:

HR 8 – on the federal level – Universal Background Checks

HB 1284 on the state level – Expanded Stand Your Ground

Thanks,

Judy Forkan Kapoun  

January 7, 2019  7 pm EST

League of Women Voters Gun Safety Coalition Call

After the welcome from Patricia Brigham, LWV of Florida, the guest speaker was introduced.

Nico Bocour, Giffords Law Center

2018 has seen a lack of action on the Federal level, but much action on the State level, especially after the Parkland (Florida) shooting.  67 new or strengthened laws have occurred in 26 states and the District of Columbia:

        Extreme Risk Protection Order policies have been enacted in eight states – with fie Republican governors.

        There have been efforts to fund gun violence reduction programs.

        Interventions are being introduced to reduce urban gun violence.

        Disarming domestic abusers has been a policy initiative.

In polling, gun control continues to be a major issue:

               Amongst Democrats, it is the second most important issue, and overall, it is the fourth most important issue.

The biggest challenge to the movement:

        There is difficulty defining “extreme risk”, as the gun lobby continues to try to weaken laws.

        The gun lobby is doubling down on the notion that more guns equals greater safety.

        Lawmakers seem to be creating diversion programs rather than crafting actual policy.

Guns in Schools:

               The gun lobby is promoting Open Carry on college campuses, and pushing to open that option to lower school systems.  The strategy has encountered opposition, as private colleges have political sway and reach out to lawmakers.  Law enforcement on college campuses –the gun lobby wants to change who is authorized to carry, and who is deputized.  This brings into question whether they have been trained, or have law enforcement background.

               There is a difference between placing law enforcement and arming school staff.  Arming school staff, especially in K-12, is not popular and receiving lots of pushback.

               There are suggestions of placing former military in the position of protecting schools.  Bocour stated that they don’t oppose trained professionals, but oppose citizens.  Acceptance  depends upon language, and level of training.

The best way to fight the gun lobby is at the legislative level;  actions have produced fear of the gun CONTROL lobby.  We must be consistent! Keep requesting the same priorities.  Continue speaking up, calling out, being informed.  “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”! Stay positive…but we’re moving in the right direction. 

Questions and comments from the audience:

·         Mary from IL:  Questioned whether there are studies of the effectiveness of metal detectors. She referenced that there aren’t mass shootings in inner city schools.

         Bocour said that she would research.

·        Marion from OH:  Asked about status of the Universal Background Check House Bill 8.

         Bocour said that she is optimistic, especially in the House.

·        Kristen from SC: Stated that she is worried about institutional racism; that Children of color would be victims if school personnel were armed. She also spoke about Red Flag laws that restrict guns in the hands of dangerous individuals;  she fears that judges will not take action because of 2nd amendment protections.

           Bocour: Racial bias is another reason not to advocate for armed law enforcement in schools.

          Historically, School Resource Officers (SRO) have not been effective; as evidenced by the SRO at Parkland who did not enter the school when the shooting began.  There have been increased calls for action, with the gun lobby pushing for more guns.  Again, to them, more guns equal more safety.  It is an illusion of a solution.  Law enforcement placement escalates the situation; responding requires a lot of training.  There is also the possibility of hiring a “hypervigilant” individual.  Giffords stand is not opposed to SRO, but feels that it is not the ultimate solution.  We must reduce the number of firearms in public places.

·         Member from IL:  comment:  In the case of an active shooter, it can take law enforcement 30-40 minutes to reach the site….we must reach other solutions.

Giffords organization has published a 60 page report with  firearm statistics.  The suicide rate is higher than the homicide rate with firearms.  This is where background checks with a waiting period could impact the outcomes.  Extreme Risk Laws are a tool against suicide and mass shootings.  Giffords Law Center Protecting The Next Generation

Member questioned whether there has been an influence from the Me Too Movement.  It has raised bipartisan support against domestic violence.  NRA, however, feels that there will not be “due process” in Extreme Risk cases, and has voiced opposition.

Stand Your Ground has been re-launched, and my surface in Ohio.  Legislators may push for more extreme version of Stand Your Ground in Florida and other states. 

Since the NRA told doctors to “stay in your lane”, there has been an outcry from medical and Public Health groups at the state and Federal level.  They are becoming more active.

Giffords Law Center Annual Gun Law Scorecard for Indiana

 

 

December 10, 2018

Conference began at 7:00 p.m., and was moderated by Patti Brigham, LWV of Florida.  

It was announced that the Center for American Progress, CAP held a National Gun Violence Prevention Conference last week in DC.  No notes were available, but the website states:

There is no single, simple solution to reducing gun violence in this country. However, there are a number of common-sense steps that would be a great place to start—steps that could be taken right now.

The guest for the call was Igor Volsky, Executive Director of Guns Down America:

https://gunsdownamerica.org/   He introduced his organization as having been formed in response to the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting.  Its purpose is to provide advocacy and to drain the NRA and gun industry of funds.  He stated that we need bolder ideas for a society with fewer guns.

A recent, and successful campaign was launched to convince FedEx to drop a discount that it afforded to NRA members.  NRA used the discounts to recruit new members.  FedEx portrays itself as a company that supports underprivileged neighborhoods; their support of the NRA was perceived as damaging to their image and values.  Protests were held in front of their offices in 6 or 8 locations. They dropped the discount program.

After the Parkland shooting, 40 companies dropped their association with the NRA. The NRA and gun lobby now admit that they are struggling.  Culture is changing; they are trying to market to African Americans and women.  Membership is declining and gun purchases are as well.

Guns Down America’s newest campaign will be to put pressure on public banks that do business with the gun industry.  Bank of America was mentioned; it has stated opposition to assault rifles, but helped Remington out of bankruptcy. Guns Down America is preparing a ranking for top banks – a report card.  They will assess their investment history in the NRA and the gun industry.  At present, he stated that the least involved (in the gun industry) is Allied Bank and Citibank.  The obvious goal is to convince consumers to choose their bank based on the bank’s gun industry footprint

On this same vein is pressure toward insurance companies.  Pension plans are heavily invested in insurance companies.  Insurance companies and consumers are also the ones covering the costs of healthcare and liability for those with guns in the home.  Are premiums raised for those with guns?  

Igor discussed “Carryguard” insurance.  It is considered “murder insurance”. It is a policy that NRA carried for gun owners.  It covered a replacement weapon and housecleaning in the event of a “Stand your Guard” incident.  In the advertisement, all of the perpetrators were black or brown. 

Guns Down America has also drawn attention to guns being taken to the polls.  It is considered armed intimidation. Only six states restrict it.  There were a number of instances at the midterms where individuals brought open carry weapons to the polls.

Actions:

    • Send emails to CEO or board member of your banks
    • Call, tweet, and post Facebook message to these companies. 

Guns Down America is going to launch a public awareness campaign called NRA Bingo.  They are anticipating that the NRA will soon be unfolding an advertising blitz of their soundbites to support the NRA and gun ownership; the usual claims of safety and 2nd Amendment rights.  The Guns Down America interactive online “game” will ask participants to identify NRA ads and claims, and will supply refuting answers. For spotting these NRA attempts, participants win points (and maybe promotional merchandise).

Igor appealed to LWV members to

    • take part in organizations that promote gun safety
    • keep watch for your banks ranking
    • look for information on https://gunsdownamerica.org/, and contribute

State Updates:

Florida is going to expand background checks.

The newly elected Speaker in New Mexico wants universal background checks, Red Flag laws, and child access prevention.

Ohio is anticipating that Stand Your Ground will probably pass with the newly elected Republican governor.

Illinois is at the forefront of confronting gun rights advocates.  At a recent School Board Conference, with one member from each School Board across the state, they attempted to convince the school boards to arm teachers.  The resolution did NOT go through.  Illinois also encouraged a ban on bump stocks and assault weapons, and encouraged safe storage – all items opposed by the NRA. 

Oregon is working on 2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinances – to circumvent gun laws.  It is being challenged as unconstitutional.

New Hampshire – has 30 new representatives – younger and more progressive.  They want background checks and Red Flag bills.  The Executive Council will be equally represented by Democrats and Republicans.

The meeting ended at 8:00.  Next month will resume at the normal date and time; first Monday at 7:00 p.m.

Judy Forkan Kapoun