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October 01, 2015

Senate Democrats announce gun safety principles to renew drive for legislation

In the wake of the Oct. 1 campus shooting in Oregon, Senate Democrats held a special event Oct. 7 to release a set of principles intended to prompt consideration of legislation to end gun violence.

The Senate Democrats, who plan to push for legislation during this Congress, are focusing on three key points: closing background check loopholes; making background checks better; and shutting down the illegal pipeline of guns.

The Democrats’ plans would stop the practice of selling guns over the Internet and gun shows without any background checks. Also key would be steps to make sure domestic abusers are prohibited from purchasing guns, and to ensure that states submit all prohibitive records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS).

Current law does not require the names of convicted domestic abusers to be submitted to the NICS system unless they are married to or living with their victims, a gap that allows stalkers and other abusers to legally purchase a gun. In addition, current law allows stores to sell a gun after three days even if the buyer’s background check has not been completed.

The principles also propose development of clear definitions for the crimes of gun trafficking and straw purchasing, when one person buys a gun in order to provide it to someone who is not legally allowed to have one.

Currently, straw purchasing and gun trafficking are not federal crimes even though nine of 10 guns involved in crimes were used by someone other than the original purchaser and one in three of those guns crossed state lines.

“These principles will be a rallying point for a public that is eager for congressional action, and will be the basis for future legislation that we will demand receive a vote,” Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) wrote to their colleagues in their capacity as leaders of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center.

During the last Congress, the Senate debated a comprehensive package of gun provisions, but the bill never reached a final vote. That legislation included numerous provisions favored by the ABA, which submitted a statement for the record of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in support of action to prevent gun violence by taking reasonable common-sense steps that include strengthening NICS and gun laws and expanding enforcement to prevent gun trafficking.

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