WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16) led his colleagues in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for common sense gun law reform.
The letter urges Senator Mitch McConnell to join Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats in passing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8) and the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446) out of the Senate. Both bills passed the House and were received in the Senate over a year ago on March 11, 2021.
“Our country is experiencing a gun violence epidemic,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16). “Guns are far too accessible in our communities and have led to crisis after crisis. For decades now we’ve seen school shootings torment our school campuses taking innocent lives and leaving entire families and communities in despair. We’ve seen places of day to day activities like schools, houses of worship, music festivals, night clubs and spas become places of mass casualties all because guns were accessible to the wrong person. Already vulnerable communities are now seeing guns trafficked into their communities, often killing children and destroying communities. Gun violence impacts all of us and is an existential threat to our lives and our democracy. We must end gun violence and passing H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 out of the Senate sets us on the path to do that by enacting stronger and universal background checks.”
In 2021 the United States saw near record high gun sales with almost 20 million guns sold in total. Of these sales, 30% of purchases were by approximately 5.4 million first-time buyers. These numbers do not account for the exchange of guns and ammunition amongst individuals who are not licensed to have and carry firearms including youth and people with criminal backgrounds. More guns are in our communities and absolutely everything must be done to ensure our communities remain safe. It is on the Senate and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to join both Democrats and Republicans in supporting and passing H.R 8 and H.R. 1446.
Those who signed the letter include: Representatives Colin Allred, Jake Auchincloss, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Anthony Brown, André Carson, Ed Case, David N. Cicilline, Yvette Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver II, Danny K Davis, Madeleine Dean, Mark DeSaulnier, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Jesus G. “Chuy” García, Raúl Grijalva, Jahana Hayes, Robin Kelly, Ro Khanna, Susie Lee, Mike Levin, Carolyn B. Maloney, Lucy McBath, James P. McGovern, Gregory W. Meeks, Marie Newman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Scott Peters, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby L. Rush, Darren Soto, Thomas Suozzi, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Ritchie Torres, Juan Vargas, Marc Veasey, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Nikema Williams and Frederica S. Wilson.
A copy of the letter can be viewed here and the text of the correspondence is below. It also cc’d President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
March 17, 2022
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader
317 Russell Senate Office Building
2 Constitution Ave NE
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Minority Leader McConnell,
We write urging you to rally your caucus to support common sense reforms that can directly stem the rise of gun violence we see in our communities across the country. As you know, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8) and the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446) on March 11, 2021 and both were received by the Senate that day. These House-passed bills that would save lives have sat unmoved in the Senate for over a full calendar year. On the day of House passage, Majority Leader Schumer publicly announced his support of H.R. 8, and H.R. 1446. Gun violence is an epidemic of catastrophic proportions that is taking our loved ones, our youth, our neighbors, and our public servants. The U.S. gun death rate is 13 times greater than other high-income nations. By this time each year, more Americans are killed with guns than in other high-income nations in an entire year. We must address it through meaningful and holistic solutions that put the needs of our constituents and communities first, and passing both H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 are necessary steps towards that. As such, we implore you to marshal your caucus to support a floor vote in the Senate for common sense gun reform measures already passed in the House.
The rise of gun violence during the pandemic is not unique nor limited to any particular community or geographic region, further underlining the urgency for federal legislative action. The prevalence of guns in more and more homes and communities has risen dangerously. 2020 and 2021 were record years for gun sales totaling 22.8 million and 19.9 million respectively, easily dwarfing the previous record set in 2016 of 16.7 million. Ensuring complete background checks are conducted before a sale is finalized is made all the more difficult given the volume of sales. Gun sales at this level not only increase the likelihood of gun trafficking into states with more strict gun control policies, but it also coincides with a higher risk of violence everywhere. For example, Lexington, Kentucky has seen two consecutive years of record numbers of homicides overwhelmingly involving firearms following the national trend with over 20,000 killed by gun violence in 2021. You can take action now to put a stop to this spike in gun violence and loss by rallying your Republican colleagues to join Democrats in passing H.R 8 and H.R. 1446.
The danger presented by senseless gun violence and gun trafficking has also grown significantly during the pandemic putting families and children in particular at risk. Amidst this boom in gun sales, nearly 30% of all firearm purchases in 2021 were made by first-time buyers, creating an estimated 5.4 million new gun owners. Historically, new gun owners are more likely to have more haphazard gun safety practices in the home leading to harmful and deadly accidents. From March to December 2020, unintentional shooting deaths by children rose by 31% with at least an additional 371 unintentional shootings by children in 2021. Moreover, the rise in first-time gun owners increases the likelihood of firearm theft that can contribute to the spike in violence. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has cataloged nearly 14,800 guns between 2012 and 2018 recovered by local police in relation to a crime that were reported lost or stolen. This figure likely grossly underestimates the number of stolen guns in circulation and the threat they pose with some research suggesting as many as 300,000 guns were stolen in 2020 alone.
This unprecedented influx of guns illustrates the need to implement common sense gun reforms that will help keep our families and communities healthy and safe. The House began the 117th Congress by passing H.R.8 and H.R. 1446 - both on a bipartisan basis. These bills would mandate universal background checks for nearly all gun transfers to limit unregistered access to firearms. Not only did H.R. 8 garner the support of the entire Democratic Caucus, but it also was cosponsored by and received yes votes from multiple Republicans, speaking to the shared recognition in the House of Representatives that common sense gun reform can help constituents in red and blue districts alike. H.R. 1446 similarly passed the House with bipartisan support. 84% of all voters support mandating background checks for all gun purchases, and 77% of Republicans agree, highlighting the broad appeal of a piece of legislation that would save lives and help protect our children.
With this in mind, we urge you, as the Minority Leader of the Senate, to meet Majority Leader Schumer and Senate Democrats across the aisle in partnership to vote on and pass H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446 in the Senate and send it to President Biden’s desk for signature. Given how much is at stake, anything less than this would be a tragic, unacceptable obstruction to preventing gun violence and gun-related deaths.
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.
The Honorable Joseph Biden, President of the United States
The Honorable Charles Schumer, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate