U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today called for action to help reduce gun violence and prevent massacres like the mass-shootings at Aurora, Newtown, Oak Creek, Virginia Tech and Tucson.
All four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation said at a press conference Friday there is a need for stronger federal gun violence prevention and mental health laws, including reinstating the ban on military-type assault weapons; limiting access to high-capacity ammunition clips; and closing the federal loophole that allows criminals and the mentally ill to buy firearms at gun shows without the same type of background checks required when guns are purchased from a licensed dealer. Rhode Island’s delegation has also opposed cuts to federal funding for children’s mental health services and youth violence prevention.
From 1994 to 2004, several types of assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines were banned by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In March of 2004, months before the ban was set to expire, Senator Reed managed floor action during the gun debate and helped lead a bipartisan coalition that voted 52-47 to renew the assault weapons ban, 53-46 to close the gun show loophole, and 70-27 to require gun locks. At the time, Democrats were in the minority in the Senate, but were joined by several Republican senators in voting for the provisions. Despite the fact that then-President George W. Bush previously claimed he supported these commonsense measures, Bush joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) in successfully killing the amended bill. Since then, there have been repeated attempts to renew the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and close the gun show loophole, but Congress has not been able to pass legislation through both chambers.
“I served in the Army, and I’ve used assault weapons,” Reed said. “Let’s be clear -- they are designed to rapidly kill. We can’t stop all gun crimes, but Congress can help prevent mass-shooting massacres by working on a bipartisan basis to reinstate common sense gun safety laws and improve access to mental health care. Things like limiting access to military-grade weapons and better background checks will help save lives and make our communities safer.”
Whitehouse is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will take the lead in crafting and approving any gun control legislation that comes before the U.S. Senate. He also worked to strengthen state laws against gun violence during his time as Rhode Island’s Attorney General.
“From getting rid of high-capacity ammunition magazines to improving access to mental health services for troubled individuals, there is obviously more we must do to keep our communities safe from the kind of horror we saw last month in Connecticut,” stated Whitehouse. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the weeks ahead to pass the best possible legislation to achieve that goal.”
Langevin is a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is an original cosponsor of the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, which bans magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, and will be introducing legislation to strengthen the inspections process for gun dealers.
“The vast majority of gun owners in Rhode Island and across the country are responsible and law-abiding citizens, and polls show that they don’t believe every gun safety law is an infringement on their rights, in contrast to the NRA’s leaders,” Langevin said. “We need a long-term comprehensive approach to gun violence that includes improving mental health care; however, there are common sense steps we should take immediately if we really want to do everything we can to make our kids and communities safer, like banning assault weapons, increasing background check requirements and closing the gun show loophole.”
As mayor of Providence, David N. Cicilline established the city’s first Gun Task Force and was a founding member of the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Cicilline is the lead sponsor of the Fire Sale Loophole Act that would keep gun dealers whose licenses are revoked from converting their gun inventory into a personal collection, which can then be sold without conducting background checks on purchasers. He has also co-sponsored several additional measures to enhance gun safety protections and strengthen background check requirements, including the Fix Gun Checks Act, the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act and the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act.
“With gun-related incidents continuing to harm families all across our country, we have a responsibility to take the actions necessary to end this cycle of violence by ensuring that criminals and those with serious mental illness do not have access to firearms,” said Cicilline.
Over the last two years, there have been a dozen mass shootings throughout the nation. Each year, gun violence kills more than 30,000 Americans.
A presidential gun-violence task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, is expected to issue policy recommendations by Tuesday, Jan. 15.