Breaking the NRA

It is a little-known fact that the first mass shooting in United States history occurred in New Jersey.

On September 6, 1949, after being the subject of numerous petty squabbles and perceived slights, William Unruh, a World War II veteran, walked through a neighborhood in Camden called Cramer Hill and murdered thirteen people. This incident became known as the Walk of Death.

 

Currently, there are approximately 13,000 firearm homicides each year. Fifty women are shot to death by intimate partners each month. Seven children and teenagers are killed every day. This is not a problem that other countries face; our homicide rate is twenty-five times higher than the average industrialized country around the world. We have heard from military veterans who know better than most the dangers of giving weapons of war to civilians. We have heard from police officers, the true “good guys with a gun,” that they are tired of being outgunned in our neighborhoods. We have heard from our children that they don’t want to be afraid at school, or at the movies, or at the mall. We have heard from responsible gun owners who believe in the right to bear arms, but who also recognize that firearm ownership should be regulated no less than driving a car or drinking a beer.

We may not be able to stop gun violence in its entirety. But we have shown in New Jersey that common sense gun safety laws are consistent with the Second Amendment and can make violence more rare. As a Moms Demand Action “Gun Sense Candidate,” I am proud to offer the following proposals to strengthen our gun laws and make our communities safer: 

Assault Weapons Ban

The Assault Weapons Ban (“AWB”) was in place from 1994 to 2004 and prohibited domestic firearm manufacturers from producing military-style assault rifles like the AR-15, as well as ammunition magazines that held more than ten rounds, unless ordered for police or military use. Many of these weapons of war are equipped with the capacity for modifications that give them full automatic capabilities, as well as high-capacity magazines. The AWB led to a 66 percent decrease in crimes resulting from an assault weapon. These types of weapons have been featured prominently in the mass shootings that have come to be a hallmark of the twenty first century. They have characteristics well suited to a military battlefield—the ability to deliver a large number of high velocity, devastatingly lethal rounds in a short period of time—but which are not needed for legitimate civilian uses, such as hunting or protecting a home. I strongly support renewing the ban nationwide, as well as reinforcing the ban that exists in New Jersey – something that our judicial system has repeatedly ruled would be consistent with the Second Amendment. 

Minimum Age for Purchasing a Firearm

The NRA believes that if you’re 17, you’re old enough to own an AR-15, but not old enough to express an opinion about AR-15 ownership. New Jersey is already leading the way regarding keeping guns out of the hands of minors, with Assemblyman Roy (LD16) having proposed legislation that would raise the minimum age for purchasing any firearm in New Jersey to 21. I believe that New Jersey should serve as a role model to other states, and that this legislation should be enacted nationwide. One in five murders involves an assailant under 21 years old.  Delaying the purchase of a firearm an additional 3 years would have a dramatic impact on gun deaths.

National Rifle Association

We must face the difficult reality that all of these efforts will be tough to pass until we elect representatives who will stand up to the National Rifle Association. The NRA gun lobby can no longer claim to be an organization that represents responsible gun owners in America, most of whom support sensible measures to reduce gun violence in our country. It promotes virulent, divisive anti-government propaganda that borders on incitement to violence, and accepts massive amounts of dark money from anonymous –and sometimes foreign– donors, to attack any political candidate who seeks to find common ground on gun safety issues. I will never accept NRA campaign donations, or be bullied by their lobbying efforts. I am running for the U.S. House of Representatives to protect and fight for you, not the NRA nor the gun manufacturers that it represents.

Concealed Weapons

I am strongly opposed to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would allow residents of states with weak gun safety laws to carry their concealed weapons in states like New Jersey, completely overriding the laws we’ve passed to protect our citizens. I agree with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (“IACP”), which represents 18,000 police departments across the United States, and which recently published a letter signed by 473 police officials from 39 states urging Congress to reject this legislation. 

Universal Background Checks

The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires that individuals “engaged in the business” of selling firearms must possess a Federal Firearms License (“FFL”). If you hold an FFL, you are required to conduct background checks through the National Instant Background Check system (NICS) and maintain a record of all firearm sales. There are exemptions, however, that allow sales between private individuals to occur without a background check, which is often referred to as the “Gun Show Loophole.” This is a dangerous loophole, allowing people who would never pass a background check because they clearly pose a threat to public safety to purchase firearms. In fact, the Islamic State terrorist organization has encouraged its followers in the United States to buy weapons at guns shows, specifically because it is so easy.

 

Gun Violence Restraining Orders

I support laws that allow family members, law enforcement officers, and other concerned individuals to petition a court to remove a person’s firearms if they are acting in ways that suggest a risk to themselves or to others. After many mass shootings, people close to the perpetrators reported previous disturbing behavior, but felt that if they had informed the authorities, nothing could be done, because a crime had not yet been committed. Federal prohibitions already exist to limit access to firearms for those citizens under permanent restraining orders, and I support state-level expansions to cover those with temporary restraining orders. This would be particularly helpful in protecting intimate partners and family members who have sought out the protection of temporary restraining orders in cases involving domestic abuse.

Armor-Piercing Ammunition

I support legislation that will prohibit the ownership of armor-piercing ammunition, in addition to existing legislation which prohibits its sale. It is important that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”) has put in place both regulations defining armor-piercing ammunition and performance-based testing to determine whether a manufacturer has created such ammunition. There is zero reason why any reasonable gun owner should need ammunition designed to pierce a police officer’s body armor.

Body Armor

The proliferation of body armor protection has made it immeasurably more difficult for law enforcement officials to do their job. We should prohibit the acquisition, sale, or transfer of body armor to anyone except those who are required by the duties of their job to protect the public, such as police officers or members of the military, as well as other, limited circumstances, like journalists or humanitarian workers visiting war zones.

Firearm Purchase Waiting Period

The National Instant Check Background System (“NICS”) has not eliminated the need for a firearm purchase waiting period. Studies have shown that such a period sometimes allows both homicidal and suicidal individuals to “cool off” and reconsider their actions, and would decrease the number of suicides by firearm. As such, I support a mandatory national five-day waiting period, regardless of the method of purchase, before an individual can purchase a handgun.

Trafficking/Firearms Tracing

Because of the Tiahrt Amendment, the National Tracing Center cannot release information from its databases to anyone other than law enforcement agencies or prosecutors when it's relevant to a criminal investigation. As a result, gun trace data cannot be used in academic research of gun use in crime, nor is it admissible in civil lawsuits. This Amendment significantly limits the ability of our nation’s law enforcement agencies to combat the sale of illegal guns, especially through municipal police departments. I strongly support repealing the Tiahrt Amendment, which weakens law enforcement’s ability to trace illegal firearms. We must close this loophole by mandating universal background checks in all situations. This would involve opening NICS to sales between private sellers for a nominal fee and increasing federal funding to ensure uniformity of both criminal and mental health updates to the system. Congress must appropriate this funding as mandatory spending, rather than leaving the Executive Branch discretion to decide whether it is spent at all. 

Conclusion

There are many pieces to the gun crisis puzzle. These include prohibiting high-capacity magazines, encouraging safe gun technology, repealing the Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting research that may be used to advocate or promote gun reform, expanding mental health treatment and barring sales to the mentally ill, barring sales to domestic abusers, restricting Internet gun sales of kits used to make/modify guns, etc.

None of these on their own will stop all gun deaths. But as we place reasonable limits on other potentially dangerous activities, including driving, smoking, and drinking, we must also ensure that we protect an individual’s Second Amendment rights while also protecting everyone’s right to life.