U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted Thursday to advance legislation to reduce gun violence to the Senate floor for a vote by the full body. The Judiciary Committee approved legislation to strengthen the existing background check system so it applies to every sale, not just those by gun dealers. It also approved tougher penalties and laws against "straw purchasers," those who buy guns on behalf of criminals who cannot legally purchase weapons themselves. In addition, legislation was approved to keep many military-style weapons off the streets and to keep our schools and campuses safe.
"Every year, gun violence claims more than 40,000 lives in this country," Senator Coons said. "We have a solemn obligation to seriously consider proposals that could save lives while also preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. We can protect individual liberty and work to reduce gun violence at the same time if we come together as Americans and leave behind the politics of polarization."
The Judiciary Committee also passed an amendment authored by Senator Coons to require the National Institutes of Justice to conduct a comprehensive study on the wide range of causes contributing to mass shooting incidents, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The range of causes to be examined should include mental illness, the availability of firearms, history of exposure to actual violence or violence depicted in the media, familial and social relationships and more.
"Horrific crimes of violence have a complex web of causes, and we must have good scientific data on these causes in order to meaningfully work towards solutions," Senator Coons said. "My amendment aims to ensure we have all the information we need as part of a thorough and searching examination of the crisis of gun violence in our country, in order to reduce that violence without infringing on the individual liberties of law-abiding citizens."