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Letter to the Senate on gun violence

June 20, 2016

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we urge you to vote YES on the Feinstein amendment (#4720) and the Murphy/Booker/Schumer amendment (#4750) to the FY2017 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578). Both amendments—which are scheduled to be voted on today—take common-sense steps to help reduce gun violence in America and make our communities safer.

Educators witness firsthand the devastating impact gun violence has on our students and families, whether it be the all too frequent shootings plaguing communities each day or the mass shootings that have occurred in schools, on college campuses, in movie theatres or most recently in Orlando, Florida. Votes associated with this issue will be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.

The Feinstein amendment closes the loophole that allows suspected terrorists on the federal government’s “no fly” list to purchase firearms, including assault weapons. The Murphy/Booker/Schumer amendment expands the existing background check system to cover commercial sales, including those made at gun shows and over the internet; it also strengthens the existing instant check system by encouraging states to enter all available records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) data underscore how easy it is for potential terrorists and other dangerous people to buy weapons of war, no questions asked. Individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list cleared a background check in 94 percent of attempted transactions in 2013 and 2014 (455 out of 486 times), and in 91 percent of attempted transactions between February 2004 and December 2014 (2,043 of 2,233 times), according to GAO.

The Department of Justice supports the Feinstein amendment, describing it as “an important additional tool to prevent the sale of guns to suspected terrorists by licensed firearms dealers while ensuring protection of the department’s operational and investigative sensitivities.” It also considers background checks “a necessary tool to prevent suspected terrorists from lawfully obtaining firearms.”

Meanwhile, the Murphy amendment expands background checks to all gun sales—including sales initiated online and at gun shows—and will help keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives, and domestic abusers. This amendment will also improve reporting of prohibited purchasers to NICS by requiring federal agencies to certify that they have provided appropriate records to the system.

Current law requires federally-licensed dealers to perform criminal background checks of gun buyers, but there is a loophole for gun shows and online purchases. In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando and countless other mass shootings, it is imperative for Congress to close this loophole.

Educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence. To help ensure the safety of our nation’s students, families, and communities, we urge you to support the common-sense Feinstein amendment (#4720) and Murphy/Booker/Schumer amendment (#4750) to the FY2017 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578). 

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations