In the wake of recent mass shootings in a Buffalo, New York supermarket, and at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school, American Bar Association President Reginald Turner urged Congress “to take swift, evidence-informed action to dramatically reduce the threat and devastating impacts of gun violence.” He sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. John Corny, R-Texas, who lead the Senate Bipartisan Working Group on Gun Violence, citing data from the Gun Violence Archive showing more than 60,000 incidents of gun violence in 2021. More than 45,000 of these incidents resulted in death.
While he said no single solution can stop what he calls an “escalating public health crisis,” Turner shared several of the ABA’s policies on gun violence that could help prevent similar incidents in the future. He contended that these measures would still respect rights that are protected by the Second Amendment. The policies include the following:
- The ABA supports universal background checks. Turner pointed out that federal law requires background checks when firearms are purchased from a federally licensed dealer, but many guns are acquired through private, unlicensed sales.
- The ABA supports urging federal agencies to upload information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in a timely manner and Congress to appropriate funding to help states, territories and tribal governments determine eligibility for firearm purchases and share relevant records.
- The ABA supports restricting the sale and possession of assault weapons, unless they are used for military and law enforcement purposes. “An AR-15 has now become the weapon of choice for those seeking to inflict carnage on children in schools, people at movie theaters and worshippers at churches, synagogues, mosques and temples,” said Turner, who added that large capacity magazines and other devices that increase the lethality of weapons should also be prohibited or subject to strict regulations.
- The ABA supports repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, which provides immunity to gun dealers and manufacturers, and greater enforcement and oversight by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Turner contended that the agency is currently without a director and sufficient resources.
- The ABA supports urging Congress to outline requirements for safe storage of firearms and help provide education on safe storage to firearm owners. “Without safe storage, individuals who are too dangerous to possess a gun, and may even be prohibited from legally acquiring one, frequently resort to stealing them from cars and homes,” Turner said.
- The ABA supports authorizing courts to temporarily remove firearms from people who are deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others through gun violence restraining orders.
Turner added that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller determined that Second Amendment rights are not unlimited.“Federal courts since Heller have upheld a broad range of gun law regulations that Heller made clear are constitutional,” he said. “These critical laws save lives—it has repeatedly been demonstrated that states with stronger gun control laws also have lower rates of gun violence.”
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