New Jersey’s U.S. Senators are praising the Biden Administration for recent steps to reduce gun violence while urging Congress to act following a spate of mass shootings in the United States.
“We cannot wait any longer to end this national nightmare. There are proven, evidenced-based steps we can take that will save lives and it is time to act,” Sen. Cory Booker said in an April 8 statement.
Sen. Bob Menendez added the White House’s actions “prove that elections have real consequences.”
“President Biden is taking much-needed action to address gun violence—a welcome change from the previous administration, which along with Republican members of Congress, bent to the will of the NRA and did nothing as more than 100,000 Americans were killed by a gun during (President Donald) Trump’s presidency,” Menendez said.
President Joe Biden’s recent executive actions to curb gun violence included announcing that his Department of Justice will propose rules targeting “ghost guns” and that his administration will write model legislation to help states and Congress pass measures aimed at keeping guns out of hands of people who pose “red flags.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill said she was “heartened” by President Biden’s actions, but called for additional steps by Congress to address gun safety. Sherrill, who represents New Jersey’s 11th district, said that President Biden took “meaningful executive actions that will address key enforcement loopholes” and “reaffirmed his commitment to the overwhelmingly popular gun safety legislation we have been leading on in Congress.”
“From universal background checks to closing the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ these are common sense reforms that I’ve fought for since my first day in office. It’s beyond time for the Senate to take up this legislation and pass it. It will keep our communities safe and finally help us address the ongoing epidemic of gun violence,” stated Sherrill.
‘Washington Has Failed to Act’
The so-called boyfriend loophole refers to what is seen as a gap in gun laws where someone convicted of, or under a restraining order for domestic violence, is barred from owning a firearm, but the prohibition only applies if the victim was the perpetrator’s spouse, lived with the perpetrator, or had a child with the perpetrator.
Like Sherrill, Sen. Booker called for universal background checks. New Jersey’s junior senator added that victims of gun violence are disproportionately people of color, victims of domestic abuse, children, teens, and people facing mental health challenges. “And for too long, as community after community has been shattered and communities like the one I go home to have been forced to live in fear, Washington has failed to act,” Booker said.
Booker urged Congress to pass legislation he introduced in 2019, “the Break the Cycle of Violence Act,” and praised President Biden for focusing its efforts on “evidence-based community violence interventions” like those in his bill.
The former mayor of Newark’s legislation would provide federal grants to communities that experience 20 or more homicides per year and have a homicide rate at least twice the national average, “or communities that demonstrate a unique and compelling need for additional resources to address gun and group-related violence,” according to a 2019 Booker press release. His legislation, failed to advance out of committee in the previous Congress.
The White House announced April 7 that the Department of Justice will issue proposed rules within 30 days to stop the “growing problem” of “ghost guns” made from kits that criminals purchase and assemble. These guns lack a serial number and often cannot be traced by law enforcement, according to the White House.
Additionally, the White House said the DOJ will issue proposed rules within 60 days “to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act.” The alleged shooter in the recent Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting, which claimed 10 lives, appeared to have used a pistol with an arm brace, which can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable, the White House said in a fact sheet explaining measures being taken to address gun violence.
White House Actions
Other steps announced by the White House, included plans to publish model “red flag” legislation aiming to aid states in passing laws allowing family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms “if they present a danger to themselves or others. The White House urged Congress to pass its own federal “red flag” legislation.
Additionally, the White House’s April 7 gun safety proposals included an initiative by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to organize a webinar and toolkit “to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions.”
Moreover, the White House said it will nominate David Chapman to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The agency has lacked a confirmed director for six years and Chipman served at ATF for 25 years “and now works to advance common-sense gun safety laws,” the White House said.
Menendez praised President Biden for what he called “common-sense solutions,” and applauded the president for choosing Chapman to helm the ATF. He called Chapman “an advocate for sensible gun safety laws,” and said his selection was “a critical step in ensuring the Bureau is led by a “permanent director who will work diligently to help prevent gun violence and save lives in communities across the country.”
New Jersey’s senior senator said that the White House’s actions to curtail gun violence “are only the first of many federal actions that must be taken to finally put an end to the scourge of gun violence that has sadly turned places of worship, concerts, movie theaters, grocery stores, and schools into open targets.”
“I will continue to urge the Biden Administration to deliver on the President’s campaign pledge to reinstate export control of semiautomatic firearms to the State Department and stand ready to pass critical legislation in Congress to close loopholes in the background check system, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, repeal the Tiahrt amendment, and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability,” Menendez said.
The Tiahrt amendment refers to legislative language attached to Department of Justice appropriations legislation beginning in 2003 that bars the ATF from releasing firearm trace data for use by cities, states, researchers, litigants, and members of the public and requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within 24 hours.
State-Level Steps on Guns
Additionally, the Tiahrt language bars the ATF from requiring gun dealers to submit their inventories to law enforcement, according to the Giffords Law Center. Proponents of stricter gun laws, like the Giffords Law Center, have sought to repeal the language arguing that it restricts law enforcement’s ability to prosecute gun crimes, while the National Rifle Association has sought to uphold it on the grounds that it protects privacy.
Gov. Phil Murphy took action to curb gun violence in the Garden State just days after the White House, announcing April 15 a raft of executive actions and legislative proposals. The measures included: setting aside $10 million in the state budget to fund gun violence intervention programs, requiring gun permit applicants to first pass a safety course, mandating that all guns not in use be kept in a lockbox or safe, and increasing from 18 to 21 the age for purchasing long guns.
New Jersey received an “A” rating from the Giffords Law Center in its Annual Gun Law Scorecard for 2020. The Giffords Law Center, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, said that New Jersey has the third-lowest gun death rate and the nation’s lowest export rate of guns used in crimes making the state a leader in gun safety laws.