Following the announcement that Vice President Joe Biden will head up a national task force on gun violence, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today urged the Vice President to consider several pieces of legislation that Lautenberg has introduced or plans to introduce to address glaring loopholes in gun safety laws. Lautenberg is one of Congress' leading voices for gun safety, and is the author of legislation to ban high-capacity magazines, close the "gun show loophole," stop the online sale of ammunition, and prevent the sale of firearms to criminals and terrorists.
"For years, I have worked hard to identify the most glaring loopholes in our gun safety laws and find common-sense solutions to address those deficiencies," Lautenberg wrote. "As we reflect on the gun violence that plagues our nation and what we can do to save lives in the future, I want to provide you with background on important legislation that I have introduced or plan to introduce in the next Congress. The time for action is now, and I am confident that the adoption of these proposals will help achieve the reduction in gun violence that we all so desperately seek."
A copy of his letter is available here and the text is copied below:
December 20, 2012
Dear Vice President Biden:
Thank you for taking on the critical responsibility of leading the Administration's task force on gun violence. We all have been deeply affected by the tragedy that took the lives of 20 children and six adults on December 14th in the halls and classrooms of Sandy Hook Elementary School. For years, I have worked hard to identify the most glaring loopholes in our gun safety laws and find common-sense solutions to address those deficiencies. You have been a constant partner in this effort and I look forward to working together to stop this violence.
As we reflect on the gun violence that plagues our nation and what we can do to save lives in the future, I want to provide you with background on important legislation that I have introduced or plan to introduce in the next Congress. The time for action is now, and I am confident that the adoption of these proposals will help achieve the reduction in gun violence that we all so desperately seek. I was pleased to hear the President indicate his support for several of these measures, and I look forward to working with you and the entire task force on this essential effort.
· Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, S. 32
As you know, high-capacity magazines allow dozens of bullets to be discharged without reloading. And while the causes of mass shootings are complex, one common thread has emerged: high-capacity magazines were used in every recent mass shooting--Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Tucson, Arizona; and Blacksburg, Virginia. My Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act would ban the manufacture and transfer of these magazines, which can carry more than 10 rounds. It would reinstate this critical provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Not only does a ban on high-capacity magazines have the support of a wide majority of Americans, it also crosses party lines. Even former President George W. Bush called for its reinstatement after it expired in 2004. High-capacity magazines are used by soldiers fighting wars; they do not belong on our streets and in our communities.
· Gun Show Background Check Act of 2011, S. 35
At gun shows across the country, buyers can completely avoid background checks otherwise required by the Brady law. The Columbine High School shooters killed 13 people with weapons obtained at a gun show, and gun traffickers regularly patronize gun shows and buy weapons that wind up at crime scenes halfway across the country. My Gun Show Background Check Act of 2011 would close the gun show loophole and ensure that those who would already fail a background check--such as felons and the severely mentally ill--cannot skirt our laws by buying firearms at gun shows from private sellers. In 1999, you and other like-minded Senators voted for my amendment to close the gun show loophole, which passed the Senate but failed to become law amidst intense pressure from the gun lobby. Even though 89 percent of all Americans favor eliminating it, the gun show loophole still exists today.
· Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012, S. 3458
As we have seen far too many times, individuals intent on harming innocent Americans have easy access to not only weapons, but also enormous amounts of ammunition that make large-scale atrocities possible. Ammunition sales are largely unregulated, allowing people to anonymously amass thousands of rounds. The suspect in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting reportedly purchased approximately 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet prior to killing 12 and injuring 58. This tragedy highlights the ability of individuals, intent on harm, to procure an arsenal of ammunition over the Internet without triggering the attention or suspicion of ammunition sellers or law enforcement. I have introduced the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, which requires face-to-face purchases of ammunition and ensures that law enforcement is alerted to suspicious bulk purchases.
· Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011, S. 34
Under current law, the government does not have the authority to stop a known or suspected terrorist from obtaining firearms or explosives. You were instrumental in exposing this "Terror Gap." Together, you and I called for a report on the Terror Gap by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2003. In that and subsequent reports, GAO found that from February 2004 to December 2010, known or suspected terrorists have been cleared to buy firearms or explosives 1,321 times. This defies common sense and is contrary to the will of the American people. In fact, 76 percent of all Americans and 71 percent of National Rifle Association members support closing the Terror Gap. My bill, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011, would give the U.S. Attorney General the authority to block the sale of guns to known and suspected terrorists.
· Alien Gun Violence Prevention Act
Finally, I want to alert you to another dangerous loophole in our guns laws--one that I intend to address by introducing the Alien Gun Violence Prevention Act at the start of the next Congress. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently determined that longstanding Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) regulations making it more difficult for people from outside the U.S. to purchase guns within the U.S. can no longer be enforced. In 1997, legislation was passed that prohibits nonimmigrant alien visa holders from possessing firearms. This law was enacted after a nonimmigrant alien shot six people and killed one person and himself atop the Empire State Building. Until recently, ATF has interpreted the restriction to apply to all aliens present in the U.S. in a nonimmigrant classification, whether or not they needed a visa to enter the U.S. A recent ruling by DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel has determined that ATF cannot prohibit nonimmigrants who entered the U.S. through the visa waiver program from purchasing firearms. "Shoe bomber" Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, a 9/11 co-conspirator, entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. Unless a legislative fix is enacted, terrorists like these will be able to enter our country and legally arm themselves.
I applaud the leadership you have shown on reasonable gun safety measures in the past and I look forward to the leadership you will undoubtedly demonstrate in the coming weeks. Thank you for your careful consideration of these and other legislative proposals.