Holiday Table Positives: Gun Safety Edition

Holiday celebrations are approaching, and with them comes opportunities for conversations.  From Uber drivers to that relative, you may have a chance to talk about Biden’s accomplishments or other good news that the media ignores.  Remember, most people do not pay for a newspaper or even watch the news – whatever the reason, they just don’t pay attention. Here are some conversation starters!

Biden and Gun Safety

Frustrated with the lack of action from Republicans in Congress, President Biden signed an executive order to create the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.  Vice President Harris will oversee the Office, which was created this September.  The leadership team also includes Stephanie Feldman, Greg Jackson, and Rob Wilcox, activists who have been working on gun safety policy for a decade.  This new WH Office is an important way to devote resources and expertise to implementing executive actions, rules and regulations through the DOJ .  They will also provide a critical function often overlooked by activists-making sure the existing laws are fully put into practice. 

Biden was able to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June, 2022, the only significant gun safety legislation in 30 years.  This legislation keeps guns out of the hands of minors, improves mental health services in schools, and invests in community violence interventions.  It makes it easier for communities to pass “Red Flag” laws by providing coordination and funding.   It also gives the DOJ more authority to prosecute firearm traffickers.

Biden’s Executive Orders include holding rogue gun dealers accountable, keeping repeat shooters and dangerous weapons off our streets and providing resources to address the root causes of gun violence.

Biden needs Congress to pass legislation to go further.  He has called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; require safe storage of firearms; require background checks for all gun sales; and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.  Republicans and the NRA categorically refuse any gun regulation.  In order for legislation of this magnitude to pass, Democrats must have full control of the House and Senate.  

Did the Assault Weapon Ban from 1994 to 2005 prevent gun violence?

The recent gun safety legislation has renewed interest in gun violence data collected before, during and after the Federal assault weapon ban from 1994 to 2004.  The data gives rise to several conclusions:  

  • Even though the ban was limited to new sales, gun deaths fell during the ban.
  • After the ban expired in 2004, there was an immediate and steep rise in gun deaths.
  • The calculated risk of a person in the U.S. dying in a mass shooting was 70% lower during the period in which the assault weapons ban was active. 
Do “Red Flag” Laws prevent gun violence?

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), are sometimes called “Red Flag” laws.  Moms Demand Action encourages using the actual name of ERPO, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders to combat the NRA propaganda around the name “Red Flag.”  There is broad public support for these laws.  16 states currently have varying versions, but basically they allow family or law enforcement to petition a court to at least temporarily remove guns from a dangerous person.  They are especially important in suicide prevention. There is not a Federal ERPO provision.

As of this writing, the latest gun massacre was in the state of Maine, which has no ERPO laws, or background checks.  The Maine shooter was known to the police for threatening acts of violence, but they had no mechanism to remove his guns.  

Even when ERPO laws exist, Sheriffs and other law enforcement sometimes refuse to enforce them, calling themselves “2nd Amendment Sanctuaries.”  Is your Sheriff elected?  Who oversees the law enforcement in your town?