Menendez, Colleagues Demand Comprehensive Action to Reduce Gun Violence

Menendez, Colleagues Demand Comprehensive Action to Reduce Gun Violence

Calls for Closing Terrorist Gun Loophole and Enacting Universal Background Checks


NEWARK, NJ – In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today joined two groups of his Democratic colleagues in urging Congressional leadership and President Obama to take legislative and executive action to curb gun violence in the United States and keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

In a letter to Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, asking for a swift vote to close the terrorist gun loophole, the Senators’ wrote: “There is no reason why suspected terrorists who we consider too dangerous to board airplanes should be able to walk into any gun store in the United States and purchase a firearm or an explosive for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist act. But today, suspected terrorists can legally purchase guns in the United States—and they’re doing so, even while law enforcement may be investigating them or pursuing their arrest or indictment…We urge you to quickly bring the ‘Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015’ to the Senate and House floor for a vote. Republicans and Democrats alike—should have the opportunity to do their part to keep our country safe by ensuring terrorists cannot obtain firearms and explosives.”

Led by Senators Reid, Durbin, and Schumer, the letter was also signed by a total of 38 U.S. Senators. Full text of the letter is below.

In a separate letter to the President, asking for him to tighten the term “engaged in the business” to help close the gun show loophole, the Senators’ wrote: “We stand with you determined to take action to reduce the terrible epidemic of gun violence plaguing this nation. All across the country, communities are ravaged and lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence... We urge you to address an aspect of the high-volume gun seller loophole that allows guns to be sold without a background check by eliminating the ambiguity surrounding the term ‘engaged in the business’ as it pertains to federally licensed firearms dealers.”

Led by Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, the letter was signed by a total of 24 U.S. Senators. Full text of the letter is below or click here for a PDF version.

Dear Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan,

We write to urge you to quickly bring S. 551/H.R. 1076, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” to the Senate and House Floor for consideration and a vote.

In light of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, the need to pass such legislation is more imperative than ever so that the United States can address a serious national security and public safety weakness: the terrorist background check loophole that allows suspected terrorist to swiftly pass a background check and obtain a dangerous weapon.

There is no reason why suspected terrorists who we consider too dangerous to board airplanes should be able to walk into any gun store in the United States and purchase a firearm or an explosive for the purpose of carrying out a terrorist act. But today, suspected terrorists can legally purchase guns in the United States—and they’re doing so, even while law enforcement may be investigating them or pursuing their arrest or indictment.

According to a Government Accountability Office letter, between February 2004 and December 2014, individuals on the federal terrorist watchlist tried to buy or obtain a firearm or explosive license or permit at least 2,233 times.

In 2,043 of those cases (91 percent of the time), the individuals successfully passed the background checks and were able to purchase the weapons or explosives. In 2013 and 2014, FBI data showed that individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm-related background checks 485 times, and 455 of those (about 94%) were allowed to proceed.

When over 90 percent of those on the terrorist watchlist who try to pass a background check succeed, it is absolutely clear we have a major vulnerability that could lead to deadly terrorist attacks.

Indeed, the Washington Post reports that since March 2014, U.S. authorities have charged 66 men and women around the country with alleged ISIL activities, and that according to the FBI, in a handful of those cases, it has disrupted terrorism plots targeting U.S. military or law enforcement personnel.

The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” will make our communities safer, including U.S. military and law enforcement personnel. It will prevent hundreds of gun purchases by suspected terrorists each year. Specifically the bill would allow the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to suspected terrorists if it is reasonably believed those individuals may use firearms or explosives in connection with an act of terrorism.

Importantly, the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” provides important safeguards to protect a legitimate gun owner’s right to acquire firearms or explosives.

The need to close the terrorist background check loophole should not be a partisan issue. The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” has received support from members of Congress in both parties. It is also supported by law enforcement and a broad cross-section of Americans. This and similar proposals have received support from both Republican and Democratic administrations, including the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.

We urge you to quickly bring the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” to the Senate and House floor for a vote. Republicans and Democrats alike—should have the opportunity to do their part to keep our country safe by ensuring terrorists cannot obtain firearms and explosives.

By passing the bill we could save American lives and help prevent terrorists from obtaining dangerous weapons.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid
Richard J. Durbin
Charles E. Schumer
Patty Murray
Patrick J. Leahy
Barbara A. Mikulski
Dianne Feinstein
Barbara Boxer
Ron Wyden
Jack Reed
Thomas R. Carper
Debbie Stabenow
Maria Cantwell
Robert Menendez
Bernard Sanders
Sherrod Brown
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Claire McCaskill
Amy Klobuchar
Sheldon Whitehouse
Tom Udall
Mark R. Warner
Jeff Merkley
Michael Bennet
Kirsten Gillibrand
Al Franken
Chris Coons
Richard Blumenthal
Brian Schatz
Tammy Baldwin
Christopher Murphy
Mazie K. Hirono
Angus S. King, Jr.
Tim Kaine
Elizabeth Warren
Edward J. Markey
Cory A. Booker
Gary Peters

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President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President:

We stand with you determined to take action to reduce the terrible epidemic of gun violence plaguing this nation. All across the country, communities are ravaged and lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence. Following yet another horrific mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, it is unthinkable that our country can continue to turn a blind eye to these tragedies.

We will continue to make every effort to build support for and demand a vote on legislation to improve background checks, close loopholes, and shut down the illegal pipeline of guns. We will not give up the fight to improve our nation’s gun laws to reflect the broad agreement of gun owners and non-gun owners who want Congress to act to halt gun violence.

We ask you, concurrently, to investigate and pursue all available options under your executive authority to reduce gun violence. Specifically, your administration could take an immediate step that would have an important impact on limiting gun violence. We urge you to address an aspect of the high-volume gun seller loophole that allows guns to be sold without a background check by eliminating the ambiguity surrounding the term “engaged in the business” as it pertains to federally licensed firearms dealers.

Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks for all gun sales, and only those individuals deemed to be "engaged in the business" of dealing in guns are required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). However, the regulatory definition of "engaged in the business," needs clarification. Currently, individuals are able to sell guns at a high volume at gun shows, over the internet, or elsewhere without ever becoming licensed and, in turn, without being compelled to conduct a simple background check before completing a sale.

Updating the definition of “engaged in the business” to provide more explicit guidance as to which gun sellers are required to obtain a federal firearms license would not impact a father giving a gun to his son, or an individual selling his gun on the internet. But it will help ensure that individuals are not able to continue to exploit ambiguity in the current regulation and sell guns at a high volume without any oversight by ATF and without conducting background checks. This type of action is not without precedent, as many states have provided this type of explicit guidance regarding which vendors engaged in retail sales in the state are required to collect state sales tax. This change would be a positive step forward in achieving universal background checks, a policy change that roughly 90 percent of Americans support. It would help ensure that those clearly holding themselves out as gun dealers are held to the same standard as the thousands of responsible gun dealers already licensed with ATF across the country.

Thank you for your continued efforts to reduce gun violence and for your consideration of executive action that could save lives. We look forward to continuing to work together to prevent gun violence.

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