Thank you for contacting me regarding gun-related violence. I appreciate knowing your views.
During 2012, horrific acts of gun-related violence were perpetrated in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, New Jersey, and especially tragically, the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While I join all Americans in sending my thoughts and prayers to the victim of gun crimes across the country, it's simply not enough for us to express our condolences. We must take action to make it harder for these tragedies to strike our communities.
We should remember that each day on average more than 80 Americans are killed by gunfire, unnecessary tragedies. All of these deaths, whether from homicide or suicide or accident, are tragic, and we must act to prevent as many as possible. Arguments that gun safety legislation won't help the situation seem to me illogical or blindly ideological.
I strongly support the effort Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are engaged in to require face-to-face ammunition purchasing requirements, and I am a co-sponsor of Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's companion bill (H. R. 142) in the House. I am also a co-sponsor of bills to strengthen background checks (H. R. 137), to close the gun show loophole that allows sales without the background checks (H. R. 141), and to prohibit the sale or possession of large capacity magazines, clips or drums (H. R. 138).
I am also a strong supporter of reviving an assault weapons ban, perhaps along the lines of the 1994 bill which unfortunately expired in 2004. That is why I am a co-sponsor of H. R. 437, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, offered by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York. You may recall that the impetus for enacting the federal assault weapons ban in 1994 was several mass murders committed with weapons that can rapidly fire many shots and hit multiple victims. We have seen such weapons used again with deadly effect in the years since the original assault weapons ban expired. I agree with thousands of police officers from across the nation that this law had saved lives and further that such weapons also present a deadly threat especially to police officers nationwide. It is established legally that the government can ban specific types of weapons – sawed-off shotguns, Tommy guns, bazookas – and so too assault weapons can be relegated to military and SWAT teams or museums and not to the general public.
To keep guns out of the hands of criminals, I successfully amended the House passed Fiscal Year 11 budget to ensure that the Department of Justice fully funded the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. NICS is a national database system that keeps track of individuals disqualified under current law from purchasing and possessing firearms. I am also a co-sponsor of Rep. McCarthy's "Fix Gun Checks Act" (H.R. 137), which would, among other things, extend the Brady Act background check procedures to unlicensed transferors and transferees of firearms.
I was pleased that Vice President Biden's Gun Violence Task Force recommendations embraced so many of these same concepts that I have long supported. Law enforcement organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police understand that common-sense controls on the ownership and possession of firearms is important if we are to keep our streets safe. New Jersey's gun laws are strong, sensible, and help to keep us safe. Police, hobbyists, hunters, and other citizens live very comfortably under New Jersey's laws but our safety is undercut by lax laws in other states. I have opposed NRA giveaways like the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act that would trump state law and let anyone licensed in any state carry a concealed weapon in New Jersey. I will oppose strongly any efforts to undermine New Jersey's own effective gun control laws. At the start of the 113th Congress in January 2013, I reintroduced the Handgun Licensing and Registration Act (H. R. 117), which is modeled on the New Jersey law, and would extend the law uniformly across the country. It has worked in our state to help prevent "straw purchases" and other illegal efforts to obtain guns, and I believe such an approach can work nationally.
Communities across this country have suffered because the House Tea Party majority has also tried to cut back funding for local police departments and even proposed eliminating the highly successful Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Cities and towns across our state have seen federal funding for programs like COPS slashed several years in a row, and predictably, the loss of police officers on the beat has been matched by an increase in violent crime in our state and around the nation.
During the 112th Congress, I helped lead a bipartisan group successfully doubling funding for the COPS program in the Fiscal Year 2013 Justice Department appropriations bill, which resulted in an additional $94 million for the COPS program. During the 113th Congress, I will be pressing for full funding for the COPS program to help bring down violent crime in New Jersey and across the nation.
Additionally, I also offered an amendment to close a loophole in the Sportsman's Heritage Act, H. R. 4089, that would have allowed hunting in all units of the National Parks System. Under the bill, hunting would be permitted even in Great Falls National Historic Park in the heart of Paterson, the third-largest city in New Jersey. It's actions like these—improved regulation of firearms and who can obtain them, along with proper funding of our police forces and mental health services—that are the key ingredients in making tragedies like the ones in Colorado, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut less likely to happen. But we need all concerned Americans to raise their voice in support of sensible gun control changes being considered in Congress.
In its 2008 decision in the Heller vs. District of Columbia case, the Supreme Court affirmed that "The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home." Although I have long opposed this interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution and I think the Court's decision was mistaken, I want to point out that "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited." I am pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized the legitimacy of efforts by states and localities to regulate the sale of handguns and to place limits on where those guns can be taken and used outside of a person's home, as well as on the apparent validity of licensing requirements and whether convicted felons can own firearms.
I will continue to support common-sense legislation that helps to protect our communities from gun violence.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. To learn more about my work on this and other issues, please visit my website at http://holt.house.gov. I look forward to hearing from you again about this and other issues.
Member of Congress