Washington – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham released the following statement today regarding President Obama’s announcement of 23 executive actions on gun control and additional legislative proposals issued to Congress:
“I can’t think of any parent, grandparent or concerned American that does not share my belief that we all need to work together to protect citizens and prevent horrific acts of violence.
“Congress and federal agencies have been studying and discussing measures that begin addressing all relevant issues to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. The President has now put forth his proposals, and Members of Congress will continue to develop theirs.
“And while I always support having a vigorous and thorough debate on the important issues facing our nation, I continue to believe that we must ensure any Congressional or executive action pertaining to firearm regulations should not erode the rights we are guaranteed in our Constitution. Our federal government is designed so that the legislative branch makes the laws and the executive branch enforces them. It is always vital that we avoid drifting from this, including now, as we weigh the President’s proposals and Congress develops its own solutions.
“In upholding our Second Amendment rights, we must also be mindful not to diminish the tragedy of recent events and the work to find sensible ways to prevent such horrors from occurring in the future. No person of sound mind could commit mass gun violence, and it is important that we consider mental health and other root causes that contribute to these terrible crimes as we move forward with this debate.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues and Iowa citizens to better protect our children, our families, and the Constitution of the United States.”
BACKGROUND ON CURRENT FEDREAL FIREARMS LAWS, REGULATIONS & HOUSE ACTIONS
COURTESY OF THE U.S. HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
January 16, 2013
- House Republicans voted to increase by more than double what the President asked for last year for the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) database. There was $12 million in the House-passed Appropriations bill while the President requested only $5 million.
- To clarify public misconceptions, a semi-automatic firearm fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, ejects the shell of the fired bullet, and automatically loads another bullet for the next pull of the trigger. A fully automatic firearm (sometimes called a “machine gun”) fires multiple bullets with the single pull of the trigger.
- Despite the NICS Improvements Amendments Act, nearly half the states still do not regularly provide records to the federal database (NICS) intended to keep guns out of the hands of people with histories of mental illness.
- Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (felon, drug user, one with a prior conviction for domestic assault, fugitive from justice, adjudicated mentally defective, etc.) is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. However, if the offender has three or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence a minimum sentence without parole of 15 years may be ordered. This is simply for possession.
- It is also punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment to KNOWINGLY sell, give, etc. any firearm or ammunition to any prohibited person. Possession of a firearm in the commission of a drug felony or federal crime of violence is punishable by no less than 5 years. If the firearm is brandished, that sentence is increased to 7 years, and if it is discharged, the sentence increases to 10 years. Similarly, if the firearm used is a sawed off rifle or shotgun, or an “assault weapon,” the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years. If a silencer or machine gun is used, the mandatory minimum sentence is 30 years. All firearms related sentencing is IN ADDITION to the underlying crime.
- Machine guns are prohibited to own unless a license is obtained from the ATF. In order to obtain a license, a lengthy and thorough background check is conducted.
- Theft of a firearm from a gun dealer is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment. Similarly, a 5 year sentence can be imposed for possession of a stolen firearm.
- Possession of a firearm in a school zone is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment. The law has obvious exceptions for law enforcement, those authorized by the school, etc.
- Possession of a handgun by a juvenile is punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment. Providing a juvenile with a handgun is also punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment unless the one providing the handgun has reason to believe the juvenile would use the handgun in a crime of violence in which case it would be punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.
- A semi-automatic firearm fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, ejects the shell of the fired bullet, and automatically loads another bullet for the next pull of the trigger. A fully automatic firearm (sometimes called a “machine gun”) fires multiple bullets with the single pull of the trigger.
- Firearms are generally classified into three broad types: (1) handguns, (2) rifles, and (3) shotguns. Rifles and shotguns are both considered “long guns.”
- As of 2009, the estimated total number of firearms available to civilians in the United States was approximately 310 million: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns.
- According to the NRA, semiautomatic firearms account for about 15 percent of privately-owned firearms in the United States.
Violent Crime, Self Defense and Firearms:
- Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. Of these, about 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms.
- Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.
- A 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 498,000 times per year.
- Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.
- A gun show is an exhibition or gathering where guns, gun parts, ammunition, gun accessories, and literature are displayed, bought, sold, traded, and discussed.
- Roughly 2,000-5,200 gun shows take place in the United States each year.
- Gun shows provide a venue for the sale and exchange of firearms by federal firearms licensees (FFLs). Such shows also are a venue for private sellers who buy and sell firearms for their personal collections or as a hobby. In these situations, the sellers are not required to have a federal firearms license. Although federal firearms laws apply to both FFLs and private sellers at gun shows, private sellers, unlike FFLs, are under no legal obligation to ask purchasers whether they are legally eligible to buy guns or to verify purchasers’ legal status through background checks.
- A 1997 U.S. Justice Department survey of 14,285 state prison inmates found that among those inmates who carried a firearm during the offense for which they were sent to jail, 0.7% obtained the firearm at a gun show, 1% at a flea market, 3.8% from a pawn shop, 8.3% from a retail store, 39.2% through an illegal/street source, and 39.6% through family or friends.
Mental Health issues:
- It is illegal for a person who was adjudicated as mentally defective or incompetent or committed to any mental institution to possess a firearm.
- The NICS Improvements Amendments Act of 2007 was enacted after the Virginia Tech shooting to provide incentives for states to make more records available for use during NICS checks.
- The act provides for certain financial incentives, such as rewards and penalties, based on the percentage of records each individual state makes available. The act also requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP) grants available to states to improve their ability to provide records. To be eligible for a grant, a state must (1) provide DOJ with a reasonable estimate of the number of NICS-related records it possesses and (2) establish a program that allows individuals who have been prohibited from possessing firearms due to a mental health-related adjudication or commitment to seek relief from the associated federal firearms prohibition.
- The total number of mental health records that states made available to the NICS Index increased by approximately 800 percent—from about 126,000 records in October 2004 to about 1.2 million records in October 2011—according to FBI data. This increase largely reflects the efforts of 12 states that had each made at least 10,000 mental health records available by October 2011.
- Despite the NICS Improvements Amendments Act, nearly half the states still do not regularly provide records to a federal database intended to keep guns out of the hands of people with histories of mental illness.
- House Republicans voted to increase by more than double what the President asked for last year for the NICS database. There was $12 million in the House-passed Appropriations bill while the President requested only $5 million.