January 05, 2016

Watson Coleman Applauds President's Executive Action to Curb Gun Violence

For Immediate Release:

Washington, DC (January 5, 2016) ― Today Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) applauded the President’s announcement of plans to take executive action to help reduce gun violence in America.

“As the Republican Congress continues to ignore and avoid even the most commonsense solutions to the epidemic of gun violence in our nation, I commend President Obama for showing true leadership, and taking action.  The steps he announced today will save countless innocent lives and make our nation safer, without infringing upon the constitutional right to own firearms,” said Rep. Watson Coleman.  “From strengthening background checks and bolstering enforcement to improving mental health services and research on gun safety, the President’s executive actions are vital steps toward solving one of our nation’s greatest crises.”

“While the President has done what he can, the most effective measures to address gun violence can only be achieved with Congressional action.  We should start with the bipartisan King-Thompson bill to strengthen background checks and close dangerous loopholes, so that criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill don’t have easy access to guns.  But we also need to explore every avenue to ensure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands, considering bills like my Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act that would take the basic step of requiring a photo ID to buy bullets.  President Obama has given us a running start.  It’s up to Congress to finish the job.”

The executive actions announced by the President today will make significant progress in the ongoing struggle to curb gun violence:

  • Toughening background checks nationwide:  The President’s executive actions provide new guidance on existing federal laws, clarifying that any individual in the business of selling firearms must obtain a license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and therefore conduct background checks on prospective gun purchasers.  These actions also include new measures and resources to make the background check system more efficient and effective.
  • Protecting communities with bolstered enforcement:  The executive actions take new steps to promote smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws – including a proposed increase in funding for more ATF agents, greater resources for tracking illegal online firearms trafficking and strengthened domestic violence outreach efforts. 
  • Improving mental health services:  The President is proposing increased investment to expand access to mental health care.  Further, the executive actions remove barriers that prevent the reporting of relevant mental health information to the background check system. 
  • Driving new research into gun safety:  The executive actions direct the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into new technology to make firearms safer.

The President’s executive actions come after the Republican Congress has repeatedly refused to allow votes on commonsense, bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation – including acting on seven separate occasions to block a vote on a Republican Congressman’s legislation to close the outrageous terror gun loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy deadly weapons across America.

In March 2015, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. House Members introduced H.R. 1217, the King-Thompson bill to strengthen background checks nationwide.  The legislation, authored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), expands the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers.  Under the legislation, the current background check system would be expanded to require comprehensive, enforceable and life-saving background checks on all commercial gun sales.

Studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun.  However, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked – because background checks are not required for these kinds of sales.  The King-Thompson bill closes these outrageous, dangerous loopholes.

“As President Obama said today, we need to act with the fierce urgency of now.  There is no duty more sacred for a Member of Congress than to protect and defend the American people. The best way we can honor the victims and survivors of gun violence is to prevent further tragedies.”