Cummings Lauds President Obama for Taking Action to Prevent Gun Violence

January 5, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (January 5, 2016) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement lauding President Obama’s announcement of executive actions to expand criminal background checks to prevent gun violence in America: 

“Several years ago, I lost my nephew to gun violence, so I know the terrible toll it takes on families. I applaud President Obama for taking action that will make our communities safer, so fewer families will have to live with the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence.  Every year, our country loses more than 30,000 people to gun violence. Last year, more than 900 people were injured by people using guns in Baltimore alone, and more than 300 of them died. It is time for Congress to follow the President’s lead and act on legislation to ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and individuals with severe mental illnesses.”

The executive actions announced by the President today will make significant progress in the ongoing struggle to curb gun violence: 

     •    Strengthening background checks nationwide:  The President’s executive actions provide new guidance on existing federal laws, clarifying that any individual in the business of selling firearms must obtain a license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and therefore conduct background checks on prospective gun purchasers.  These actions also include new measures and resources to make the background check system more efficient and effective. 
     •    Protecting communities with bolstered enforcement: The executive actions take new steps to promote smart and effective enforcement– including a proposed increase in funding for more ATF agents, greater resources for tracking illegal online firearms trafficking and strengthened domestic violence outreach efforts.  
     •    Improving mental health services:  The President is proposing increased investment to expand access to mental health care.  Further, the executive actions remove barriers that prevent the reporting of relevant mental health information to the background check system.  
     •    Driving new research into gun safety: The executive actions direct the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into new technology to make firearms safer. 

The President’s executive actions come after the Republican Congress has repeatedly refused to allow votes on commonsense, bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation – including acting on seven separate occasions to block a vote on a Republican Congressman’s proposal to close the outrageous terror gun loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy deadly weapons across America. 

In March 2015, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. House Members introduced H.R. 1217 to strengthen background checks nationwide.  The legislation, authored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), expands the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers.  Under the legislation, the current background check system would be expanded to require comprehensive, enforceable and life-saving background checks on all commercial gun sales.

Studies show that background checks stop more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun each day they are in use.  However, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked – because background checks are not required for these kinds of sales.  The King-Thompson bill closes these outrageous, dangerous loopholes.