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WHAT DO DOOR LOCKS HAVE TO DO WITH UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS?
730 SENATE HART OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON, DC 20510
United States Senate
WASHINGTON, DC 20510
April 29, 2013
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Second Amendment. I appreciate that you took the time to write on this important topic.
Responsible gun ownership is an integral part of our Western heritage. The Second Amendment provides for an individual right, and I am dedicated to protecting the rights of citizens to own firearms for personal protection, hunting, collecting or for other legal purposes. That said, I think we can all agree that the horrors of the Newtown shooting and the tragedies that occurred at places such as Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Aurora and Tucson should concern us all and we must do everything we can to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and those who would turn them against their community.
As you know, the U.S. Senate recently considered the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S.649). Specifically, this bill would increase the accuracy of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), make “straw purchases” a federal crime, and strengthen penalties for illegal gun trafficking. In an effort to make our children safer, this piece of legislation also would provide critical federal funding to the Secure our Schools grant program, so that our educators can install locks, reinforced doors and other measures to deter violence in our schools.
A limited number of amendments to this bill were allowed. I proudly voted in favor of the central part of the legislation requiring universal background checks on gun purchases. I also voted for amendments such as limiting high-capacity magazines, cracking down on illegal gun sales and trafficking and improving mental health services. Unfortunately, a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, drafted by two conservative U.S. senators – Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia – did not garner the requisite 60 votes to pass the U.S. Senate, despite being supported by 90 percent of Americans and over 70 percent of NRA members. It was a sad day when a minority of senators chose to ignore the overwhelming consensus of opinion, as well as common-sense policy.
The Senate also considered an assault weapons ban. While I’ve previously called for a ban on military-style assault weapons, the specific ban we considered went much further than the 1994 assault weapons by banning legitimate hunting rifles and shotguns that are used responsibly by many hunters and sportsmen in Colorado. I spoke to sportsmen from across Colorado and they voiced their concerns about how this ban would restrict their ability to hunt and responsibly practice their sport, which is an important part of our economy and way of life. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity for me to improve this ban with amended language. I know some Coloradans may say that banning some legitimate hunting weapons is a small price to pay to keep other, more dangerous weapons off of our streets – especially for a state that has suffered mass gun tragedies. I can relate to that sentiment, but after years of seeking to find common ground on gun-safety issues, I also know that overreach can spur the backlash that we’ve seen undermine even the most common-sense solutions – like universal background checks.
But an assault weapons ban alone should not serve as a litmus test for people who want to reduce gun violence. Even if a perfectly drafted assault weapons ban were signed into law, we would still be left with easy access to millions of military-style weapons on our streets today – which is why it is so important to also ensure that a background check is conducted on every gun sale.
There are no easy answers, but we should all agree – and a large majority of NRA members do – that we must keep firearms of any kind out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill by requiring universal background checks. But loopholes – which the Manchin-Toomey proposal sought to correct – continue to prevent many of these background checks from occurring today. Disturbed individuals should not get a chance to fire even one round into their communities, let alone the 30 rounds a high-capacity magazine would allow. Together, background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines achieve much of what an assault weapons ban seeks to – preventing the wrong people from having access to weapons that can inflict mass casualties in a matter of moments.
Coming from a state with a long and storied tradition of gun ownership that has also suffered through too many gun tragedies, I know we must simultaneously renew our commitment to keeping our children safe while safeguarding our Second Amendment rights. My friend Gabby Giffords, a survivor of the senseless violence in Tucson, knows too well how important this debate is and her strength has only affirmed my conviction that the status quo must change. I will keep fighting for Colorado’s families and values. Our nation deserves nothing less.
I will continue to listen closely to what you and other Coloradans have to say about matters before Congress, the concerns of our communities, and the issues facing Colorado and the nation. My job is not merely about supporting or opposing legislation, but also about bridging the divide that has paralyzed our nation’s politics. For more information about my positions and to learn how my office can assist you, please visit my website at http://www.markudall.senate.gov/.
U.S. Senator, Colorado
U.S. Senator, Colorado