1. Update
  2. Gun Violence

More Progress on Gun Violence Prevention Inside and Outside of Congress

By Andre Gobbo, April 24, 2019

The Bipartisan Background Checks Bill (H.R. 8), which would establish universal background checks, passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. Since then, we’ve seen continued progress and wins in a variety of areas that address gun violence. While we’re continuing our push for universal background checks in the Senate, a lot has happened outside of those efforts

In just the past month, the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1585) with strong provisions like one that would close the “boyfriend loophole.” The Supreme Court upheld a regulation that bans bump stocks. Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) led a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on extreme risk laws.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorized

On April 4, the House passed the Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 1585). This bill includes several key components that would help protect vulnerable women. One crucial provision closes the “boyfriend loophole.” Under current law, anyone who is convicted of domestic violence against a current or former spouse is prohibited from purchasing a firearm. VAWA would expand that prohibition to include anyone who commits violence against a dating partner or is convicted of stalking.

Another provision would require state, local, and tribal law enforcement to be notified when someone who tries to purchase a gun fails a background check because they were convicted of domestic violence or stalking, or because they are the subject of a qualifying protective order. These provisions would help save thousands of lives. More than half of all intimate partner homicides (murders by a current or former spouse or unmarried dating partner) are committed using a firearm.

Despite pressure and public opposition from the gun lobby, VAWA passed the House, with 33 Republicans voting for the bill. The bill now goes to the Senate. This is a huge win which will help protect women and make our communities safer. It demonstrates that members of Congress from both parties are willing to stand up to the gun lobby.

Supreme Court Upholds Bump Stock Ban

On March 28, the Supreme Court refused to take up an appeal to the Trump administration’s executive order that banned the use of bump stocks. Bump stocks are a modification that turns semi-automatic assault rifles into even deadlier fully automatic weapons. The regulation was issued on December 18, 2018 and went into effect on March 26. It remains in effect during any appeals or court challenges.

This regulation shows that the Trump administration is willing to take at least some steps to reduce gun violence. The regulation was issued in response to the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017. While it should have happened much sooner, we applaud any effort that will help make our communities safer.

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Extreme Risk Laws

On March 26, Sen. Graham held a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on extreme risk laws. While the hearing wasn’t connected to any bill, it started a higher-level conversation about the merits of extreme risk laws.

Extreme risk laws largely target those who might commit suicide, but can also stop domestic violence and mass shootings. The nuances of these laws vary from state to state, but they all allow for certain people (family members, law enforcement, and/or health professionals) to petition the state for temporary removal of a firearm from someone at risk of harming themselves or others, pending a hearing with a judge. Currently 14 states have enacted or recently passed such laws, and more are considering them.

From Florida to Oregon, these laws have helped save lives. There are already documented instances of extreme risk laws helping to prevent school shootings and suicides.

Overall, the March 26 hearing showed strong bipartisan support on an important gun violence prevention issue. We hope that it signals a willingness to tackle part of the pernicious problem of gun violence.

These recent victories are the result of consistent advocacy across the country. We need to keep up the steady drumbeat and make sure that our members of Congress know that our work isn’t done yet. As Congress is in recess, now is a great time to go to a town hall in your community and lobby your member of Congress from home. Urge your Senators to take action on gun violence now.

Andre Gobbo

  • Legislative Representative, Domestic Policy

Andre Gobbo adds capacity to the Domestic Policy team by handling constituent queries, writing action alerts and sign-on letters, assisting with lobbying visits, creating informational content, supporting coalition relationships, and helping execute FCNL’s legislative strategies. He primarily works on issues relating to economic justice and gun violence prevention but also assists other domestic policy initiatives. He also serves as the co-chair of the Policy & Advocacy subcommittee within the Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence coalition.