June 19, 2019

Cardin Statement on Universal Background Check Legislation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin delivered the following statement on the Senate Floor today on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. Though the House of Representatives passed this common sense legislation in February, Leader McConnell has yet to bring to the floor of the Senate.

“The logic here is inescapable. I can’t explain to my constituents--nor can Senator Casey explain to his--as to why the universal background check has not been on the floor of the United States Senate for a vote. Let us do our will. This is an issue that we have talked about for years, and the majority leader has refused to bring this up for a vote so that the will of the majority can prevail. That’s what we’re simply asking for.

“It was in February of this year that the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to deal with universal background checks. It passed by a large majority, and we now understand the urgency of us considering legislation. Inaction is not an option. We’ve got to do what we can to deal with the crisis at hand.

“And what is that crisis? One hundred people killed every day in this country by gun violence. 310 are shot by the way, 210 are injured, and 100 are killed every day of the week, seven days a week. So since the house has acted on this bill about 11,000 Americans have been killed. This is urgent, every day makes a difference. In my state of Maryland over 180 people have been killed by gun violence since the house passed the bipartisan universal background check legislation in February of this year.

“It’s the second leading cause of death among children and first among African-American children. Rarely a month goes by without us having another mass shooting take place here in the United States. And Mr. President, it was one year ago on June 28th in Annapolis, Maryland at the Capitol Gazette that we saw a shooting that took the lives of reporters. At that time I took the floor with others saying, ‘What more does it take for us to debate gun safety in this country? Why can’t we take up legislation and have a debate? Isn’t that what our job is here in the United States Senate?’

“The Gun Control Act of 1968 established a framework for legally prohibiting certain categories of people from possessing firearms. The list of prohibited persons has grown over the years but includes felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, and those found by the court or other tribunal to be seriously mentally ill. I would hope all of us agree that these individuals shouldn’t have guns. How do you know if they’re going to get a gun without a background check?

“Since the Brady Law took effect it has blocked more than 3 million prohibited gun sales, and processed over 278 million purchase requests. So the technology is there, we know how it works. We have the FBI run a background check. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is there to see whether you’re a convicted felon or you’re a fugitive or a domestic abuser or other prohibited purchaser. We have the technology.

“We know that background checks work at the state level as well.  According to the Brady Campaign, states that have expanded the scope of their background checks have seen impressive results, including 53 percent fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty and 47 percent fewer women are shot by intimate partners. Cities in states with expanded background checks see a 48 percent reduction in gun trafficking.

“Does it solve the problem? No. Does it take a bite out of gun violence? Yes--a significant improvement in dealing with gun violence. It’s part of the solution.

“But when the Brady law was enacted it was before the internet. America has changed and our nation’s gun laws need to change with it. Today about one out of every five gun sales are either made online, made privately, or made at a gun show, and are not subject to the background check which is the law. It’s our responsibility to make sure the laws are kept up to date and are effective. These sales are largely unregulated and unchecked. That is simply wrong. Those sales can avoid the background check.

“Passing legislation to expand background checks to nearly every gun sale, including those conducted online at gun shows and through private transfers, should be a top priority in Congress for commonsense gun safety legislation to save lives.

“I’m not going to repeat the numbers that Senator Murphy and Senator Casey mentioned about the popular support. It’s over 90%, 97% the last poll showed, and by all categories, because its common sense. In fact, I think the public has a hard time understanding why we haven’t passed this long before now. I agree gun laws alone cannot solve the problem, but it will make a difference. There is no single answer, but we should take steps that can help us deal with this crisis.

“Sitting on the sidelines is not an option when our children are being killed – sometimes by other children – and surrendering to the false logic that the problem is too big to address falls well short of what the American people deserve and expect us to do. They sent us here to the Senate to make tough decisions. This isn’t even a tough decision. But we have to make decisions.

“From my hometown of Baltimore to towns across America there have been names in the headlines because of gun-related tragedies or mass shootings. People are calling on us to act.

“So my message is simple. Let us bring the bill to the floor of the United States Senate. Let’s follow the example of the House of Representatives. Let’s not be the graveyard. Let’s be the greatest deliberative body in the world. Let us take up the issue, let us debate it, and let us vote on it, and let us do right by the American people.”

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