PRESS RELEASE: 50-State Analysis Shows Undeniable Correlation between Gun Safety Laws and Reduced Gun Deaths

Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard grades and ranks all 50 states on their gun laws

States with the highest gun death rates consistently have weak gun laws. Half of the nation—25 states—receive an F grade

March 1, 2018—Today, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades and ranks each state on the strength of its gun laws. This comprehensive, 50-state analysis clearly shows how stronger gun laws like background checks help reduce gun death rates and save lives.

“Every day in our country, nearly 100 Americans die from gun violence. While this crisis is impacting families in every community in every state, we know its toll disproportionately hits states with weaker gun laws the hardest,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Year after year, our research shows that states that get serious about passing stronger gun violence prevention laws have a much better chance of reducing the number of deaths linked to firearms. This scorecard should be a wake-up call to the half of the nation that has failing grades that they are on notice. The Gun Law Scorecard should inspire elected leaders, activists, and concerned citizens to take action.”

The Annual Gun Law Scorecard makes clear that there is a significant opportunity to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic if more states act. Since 2014, the gun death rate has been rising, with gun deaths jumping 8% from 2014 to 2015 and another 7% from 2015 to 2016. That resulted in the deaths of 38,000 people in 2016—the deadliest year for gun deaths since 1993.

 

Of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, eight have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, receiving a B or better. All eight have also  passed private-sale background checks. Those eight states are:

  • Massachusetts

  • Rhode Island

  • New York

  • Hawaii

  • Connecticut

  • New Jersey

  • California

  • Washington

Yet, even with such powerful data showing that states with stronger gun laws have lower death rates, many states have done nothing. The 10 states with the highest gun death rates have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation—with all 10 receiving an F the Gun Law Scorecard. They are, in order of deadliness:

  • Alaska

  • Alabama

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Oklahoma

  • Montana

  • Missouri

  • New Mexico

  • Arkansas

  • South Carolina

States continue trend of passing stronger laws 
The scores for some states reflect the continued efforts of Giffords to help lawmakers in state capitals pass strong gun safety measures. Six states—North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah—received additional points this year for new domestic violence laws, with Tennessee raising its grade from an F to a D-. The state established procedures to ensure domestic abusers surrender firearms after becoming prohibited. Other states enacted laws to prohibit domestic violence misdemeanants and subjects of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns.

Five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York—received more points for funding urban gun violence intervention and prevention programs,which are remarkably effective at saving lives. Last December, Giffords Law Center, in partnership with PICO National Network and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, released a landmark report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, which highlights innovative programs in three states that dramatically reduce levels of gun violence in impacted communities.

Another state, Oregon, received additional points for enacting an Extreme Risk Protection Order law that empowers families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from people proven to be at risk to themselves or others. Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown signed an ERPO bill into law after members of the Giffords Oregon Coalition testified on behalf of the bill and urged Oregon leaders to pass it.

Politicians ignoring the will of the people hurt their state’s gun law scores—and safety 
States also experienced setbacks. Nevada’s grade dropped from a C- to a D because a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016 requiring background checks on private sales of firearms was not implemented. Nevada’s attorney general has refused to let the law take  effect because of a dispute with the FBI over who should conduct the background checks. While voters strongly approved the background check law to help make sure dangerous individuals can’t buy guns, the attorney general, who spoke of his opposition to the requirement during a speech at the NRA Convention last year, set the state’s score, and public safety, back.

Two other states—North Dakota and New Hampshire—lost points for enacting permitless carry laws in 2017. Iowa also dropped from a C to a C- because of a new stand your ground law. Stand your ground laws remove a person’s “duty to retreat” in a public conflict, allowing them to shoot to kill even when they could safely walk away.

Activists are leading the charge to beat back dangerous gun lobby bills
This year’s Gun Law Scorecard also highlights how gun violence prevention advocates’ success in thwarting gun lobby–backed bills allowed many states to keep their high grades. In 2017, advocates were successful in stopping 26 permitless carry bills, which would allow people to carry loaded guns in public without a permit or oversight. Advocates alsostopped 20 states from enacting measures to allow guns on college and university campuses and beat back stand your ground laws in 11 other states.

Visit the Annual Gun Law Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org

Experts Available for Comment

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STATEMENT: Gabrielle Giffords Reacts to Shooting at Texas’s Santa Fe High School

Santa Fe Shooting

May 18, 2018—Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Giffords, issued the following statement reacting to today’s shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

STATEMENT FROM CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS

“Once again today, students stood before national cameras and detailed the terror that unfolded in their school. We heard children report that they called their parents to say ‘it’s for real this time’ and that they ‘always knew this would eventually happen, it was just a matter of when.’

“I will not stand for this and neither should you. Parents should not have to hug their children in the morning and worry about whether they’ll see them at the end of the day. We don’t have to live in a country where the politicians let this happen again and again and again.

“These students in Texas now have to reckon with the unspeakable trauma of a shooting at their school—the experience of calling their parents in a panic, hearing the shots ring out from a classroom, scrambling and running for their lives. Soon they will attend funerals for their classmates and friends.

“It’s time for America to find the courage to take on the powerful and fight for our own safety. We can’t wall ourselves off from the threat of gun violence—it doesn’t work. Nor can we simply arm ourselves against one another—that makes it more dangerous still.

“We need the courage to take on the special interests who say that nothing can be done, that these acts of evil are beyond our ability to control. They are not. The gun lobby and the politicians who receive the NRA’s checks must understand we will not tolerate another vote against our safety.

“Congress must find the courage to pass the effective laws that can protect our children and stop dangerous people from accessing guns. And if this Congress won’t protect our kids and communities from gun violence, this November we will vote in a Congress that will.”

Background

Background information about gun laws in Texas and background information about school shootings is available here.

Giffords Law Center recently released a report on the impact of gun violence against children. Among its key findings are that:

  • Since Columbine alone, more than 150,000 students in at least 170 elementary, middle, and high schools have experienced school shootings.
  • 91% of children in high-income countries who are killed with firearms live in the United States.
  • Nearly 60% of all high school students report fears of a shooting at their school or in their community.
  • Nearly 40% of children exposed to a shooting will develop PTSD.

Experts Available

The following gun law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, email [email protected]:

  • Captain Mark Kelly, Co-founder, Giffords
  • Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords
  • Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center (Recently featured on 60 Minutes)
  • David Chipman, Former ATF Agent, Senior Policy Advisor, Giffords
  • Laura Cutilletta, Legal Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center
  • Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords
  • Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Mike McLively, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center

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STATEMENT: Gabrielle Giffords on the Mass School Shooting in Florida

WASHINGTON DC—Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Giffords, issued the following statement reacting to today’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

STATEMENT FROM CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS:

“The accounts from today’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida strike fear into all Americans. Is it safe to send our kids to school? Are we safe in our homes and communities? But our fear cannot compare to what our innocent children felt as the gunshots rang out, bullets flew through the halls of their school, and their teachers and classmates were gunned down.

“Even in our grief, we must summon the courage to fight against this fear. Americans must find the courage to imagine a country where these massacres do not occur. Our leaders must find the courage to escape the confines of their politics and pursue the moral necessity of peace and safety.

“If I could offer protection to the 315 Americans who are shot every day, I would. But we can’t wall ourselves from the threat of gun violence, nor will we find safety in the deadly cycle of arming ourselves against each other.

“The defenders of the status quo—advocates of the firearms industry and the politicians paid to defend it— will tell you that events like these are virtual acts of nature, products of mental illness or bad parenting, beyond our ability to control. This could not be further from the truth. Every day we fail to take action, we choose this fate. We tolerate politicians who fail to acknowledge this crisis and vote against our safety. We let our gun violence epidemic continue day after deadly day.

“My heart is with the victims and survivors, and my gratitude is with Broward County’s courageous first responders. The question now is if we will find the courage to pass the laws we need to protect our children, to stop dangerous people from accessing guns. And if Congress won’t act, American voters must.”

The following gun law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews.
To arrange an interview, email [email protected]:

  • Captain Mark Kelly, Co-Founder, Giffords
  • Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords
  • Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center (Recently featured on 60 Minutes)
  • David Chipman, Former ATF Agent, Senior Policy Advisor, Giffords
  • Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Laura Cutilletta, Legal Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords
  • Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center
  • Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center

Three Cities Sue to Compel Department of Defense to Report All Disqualifying Conviction Records to FBI’s National Gun Background Check System

December 26, 2017—After the Air Force failed to provide records that would have prevented the perpetrator of the mass shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, from buying a gun, three cities today filed a lawsuit to prevent it from happening again. The cities are represented by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, which worked with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to develop the case. The action seeks to compel the Department of Defense (DoD), the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army to fulfill their longstanding legal obligation to report all service members disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms to the FBI’s national background check system.

In today’s complaint, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, each of which regularly rely upon the integrity of the FBI’s background check system, seek federal court oversight of the Department of Defense and military branches, to ensure that they consistently submit to the FBI all records of service members with disqualifying convictions or dishonorable discharges. Those convictions and discharges should prevent current or former service members from legally buying or possessing firearms.

On November 5, a gunman with a history of domestic violence entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and killed 26 churchgoers, injuring 20 others. It was later revealed the gunman had been court-martialed for two counts of domestic violence and had received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, after assaulting his first wife and cracking the skull of his baby stepson. That prior conviction should have disqualified him from ever buying or possessing any guns. But, because the Air Force never entered that information into the FBI database for background checks on gun purchasers, he was still able to pass a background check and buy the assault rifle used in the Texas church shooting.

“The horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs made all too clear the devastating consequences that can follow when known dangerous people are able to pass background checks and acquire guns,” said Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “For two decades, the Department of Defense was aware of the fact that it was failing to report unacceptably high numbers of disqualifying records to the FBI. Just earlier this month, the Air Force Secretary and Acting Inspector General both told Congress these problems continue to this day. Legislative solutions to strengthen the background check reporting system exist, but instead of taking the urgent action voters are demanding, Republican lawmakers are playing political games with the Fix NICS Act. And this is why we’re now going to the courts. After twenty years of failure, outside monitoring by the courts is clearly necessary to guarantee that the reporting failures that led to the Texas church shooting never happen again. That’s exactly what this lawsuit aims to accomplish.”

“Our three-city coalition will right this two-decade wrong,” said Pillsbury partner Ken Taber, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “The Executive Branch and Congress have both had their chances to repair this clearly broken system. Now, after 20 years of failure, it’s time for the courts to step in,” Taber said.

The lawsuit filed today seeks an injunction, and judicial oversight, to ensure that DoD  consistently meets its legal obligation to submit records to the FBI for inclusion in the background check system. Under the judicial order requested, the DoD and its branches would be compelled to ensure current and past disqualifying records are filed to the background check system, as is already required by law. DoD would also be required to report back to the Court regularly on its compliance efforts.

The DoD has a well-documented history of failing to report disqualifying records to the FBI:

  • In 1997, the DoD Inspector General reported that the Air Force failed to submit appropriate records in approximately 50% of its cases; the Navy failed to submit final records in approximately 94% of its cases; and the Army failed to submit records in approximately 79% of its cases.

  • Eighteen years later, in 2015, the DoD Inspector General reported that the same problems persisted, and the Air Force still failed to submit records in approximately 32% of its cases; the Navy still failed to submit records in approximately 25% of its cases; and the Marine Corps failed to submit records in approximately 33% of its cases.

  • Just this month, the DoD Inspector General reported that the Air Force failed to submit records in approximately 14% of its cases, the Navy failed to submit records in approximately 36% of its cases, the Army failed to submit records in approximately 41% of its cases, and the Marines Corps failed to submit records in approximately 36% of its cases.

  • The DoD Acting Inspector General testified to Congress just two weeks ago that these problems persisted because DoD simply “didn’t take [his office’s] recommendations as seriously as they should have.”

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Giffords Law Center Sues Trump Administration to Uncover Effort to Pack Federal Courts with Unqualified, NRA Hand-Picked Judges

December 19, 2017—Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Giffords) filed a lawsuit today after the Trump Administration refused to disclose records that would reveal the extent of the Administration’s coordination with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the selection of nominees for lifetime appointments to federal judgeships.

Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut, Captain Mark Kelly, was compelled to file the lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) after the agency failed to timely respond to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  Giffords’ requests seek records that would reveal the gun lobby’s role in directing the Trump Administration’s judicial picks to fill over 100 federal court vacancies. Even though this information is necessary before the nominees are confirmed to lifetime positions, the Administration told Giffords that it would take many months to even begin a search for the records.

The public need for this information is great and growing, as the Senate is poised to approve President Trump’s  judicial nominees, a number of whom bear the NRA’s stamp of approval. In September, the gun lobby endorsed four nominees for federal judgeships, one of whom has since been confirmed for a seat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.The other three will be considered by the full Senate for confirmation soon.

“The Trump Administration has been naming judges with lifetime tenure to the federal bench at breakneck speed, and these judges will influence American law and society for the next generation. Many of these judges have alarming backgrounds and views, and it is extremely troubling that the Washington gun lobby is leveraging its financial support of President Trump and political clout to pressure the administration to appoint judges that share its radical gun agenda and absolutist view of the Second Amendment,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  “We’ve demanded that the administration turn over any records that show the gun lobby’s attempts to influence who gets named to the federal courts because the public deserves and needs to know who is calling the shots on judges.  Because the administration has stonewalled us on producing these records, we’ve had no choice but to meet them in court.”

Among the the Trump Administration’s controversial picks is Brett Talley, a nominee for the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Alabama, who had publicly pledged “support to the NRA; financially, politically and intellectually” and has been criticized for failing to disclose conflicts of interest. The White House recently announced that it was pulling Mr. Talley’s name from consideration, a decision that came after widespread condemnation of the pick, including by the American Bar Association which unanimously found Talley to be unqualified to serve.

“Far from nominating fair minded jurists to the federal bench, the Trump Administration is trying to pack the courts with extremist judges dedicated to advancing the NRA’s dangerous agenda,” said Democracy Forward Policy and Strategy Director Corey Ciorciari. “The public has a right to know how much influence the NRA has over these critical lifetime appointments.”

Out of concern that the Senate will confirm President’s Trump’s  judicial nominees without a public understanding of the degree to which the Washington gun lobby influenced their selection and confirmation, Giffords asked DOJ for, among other things:

  • Communications between gun lobbying groups, including the NRA, and senior Administration and DOJ officials related to Trump’s judicial nominations, including recently confirmed Judge Leonard Grasz.

  • Records related to potential coordination between the NRA and Administration officials regarding Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s selection process.

Giffords Law Center is being represented on a pro-bono basis by the Democracy Forward Foundation.

Read the full complaint.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

For nearly 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.

This press release was published by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Giffords Law Center Asks Internet Service Providers to Immediately Shut Down Websites for Businesses that Allow Dangerous Individuals to Make Untraceable Assault Weapons with No Background Checks

Following a mass shooting that left six dead in Tehama County, California, carried out by a shooter prohibited from owning guns and charged with multiple crimes who made two assault weapons with parts ordered online, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence asked two Internet Service Providers to take down websites for businesses that allow dangerous persons to avoid background checks and make their own assault weapons.  These do-it-yourself guns are known as “ghost guns” because they lack serial numbers that are generally required under federal law, and are a critical tool for law enforcement.

In letters sent to Shopify, Inc., the web host for GhostGunner.net, and DreamHost Inc., the web host for GhostGuns.com, Giffords Law Center urged the Internet Service Providers to disable the two businesses’ websites, because they allow individuals who are legally barred from buying a firearm to buy materials and tools that allow them to assemble guns themselves.

Both Ghost Guns and Ghost Gunner sell tools and gun components that allow anyone to make semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons without passing the background checks that federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct.  Ghost Gunner sells a machine and software that allows purchasers to manufacture assault weapons with the simple click of a button.

The firearms that are manufactured using parts and tools sold by the two companies cannot be traced by law enforcement because they lack serial numbers.  And because the guns are illegal in multiple states, the two companies aid and abet violations of various laws, in violation of the Internet Service Providers’ Acceptable Use Policies and Terms of Service.

“People should not be able to make their own assault weapons and other guns when those individuals are dangerous and legally barred from buying guns,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  “Companies that are more worried about making money than the safety of the public or law enforcement officials sworn to protect them shouldn’t be given a platform to sell their products. It’s time to turn off the lights on these sites so these companies won’t be able to enable illegal gun trafficking or the next mass shooting.”

“The recent mass shooting in Northern California underscored how dangerous it is when people legally prohibited from owning guns can go online and buy do-it-yourself assault weapon kits from unaccountable companies with no background checks, and no questions asked,” said Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel at Giffords Law Center.  “But companies like Ghost Gunner and Ghost Guns are profiting from doing just that.  The Internet Service Providers hosting their websites are contractually entitled to shut these dangerous websites down, and they can, and should, do so.”

The letters, sent on behalf of Giffords Law Center by their counsel at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, pointed out that:

  • The Internet Service Providers’ policies prohibit their customers from engaging in illegal activities and promoting illegal activities by consumers, and they allow the ISPs to shut down the websites they host at will

  • The ISPs should disable the websites, which sell deadly, unlawful products

  • Online purchases from the websites allows purchasers to avoid requisite background checks and to make firearms that cannot be traced by law enforcement

  • The websites’ products are illegal in multiple states, and aid and abet violations of state law by their customers

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For nearly 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.

Giffords Law Center Files Suit to Uncover Extent of the NRA’s Influence Over Trump Administration Gun Policy, Response to Recent Mass Shootings

November 10, 2017—Following the tragic mass shootings in Sutherland Springs, Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence—the gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut, Captain Mark Kelly—filed a lawsuit after the Trump administration refused to disclose documents related to the NRA’s influence over the Trump administration’s gun safety policy.

The suit was filed against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after the agency failed to respond to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking to reveal the gun lobby’s role in directing the Trump Administration’s legislative agenda, influencing its regulatory efforts, and shaping its public response to recent mass shootings.

“The Trump administration appears willing to let the National Rifle Association dictate its federal gun safety policy, which includes remaining silent on how to stem our nation’s gun violence epidemic,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Protecting the safety of Americans should be the top priority of any president. Unfortunately, gun lobby profits seem to be more important to President Trump.”

There have been 34 mass shootings since the horrific violence in Las Vegas that claimed the lives of 58 people and injured hundreds more. Despite this devastating loss of life, the Trump administration, at the NRA’s behest, has taken numerous policy actions that actually increase the threat of gun violence.

“The Trump administration has chosen to fight transparency rather than reveal how it is prioritizing the gun lobby over public safety,” said Democracy Forward Policy and Strategy Director Corey Ciorciari. Giffords Law Center is being represented on a pro-bono basis by Democracy Forward Foundation.

Reports have already detailed the pattern of close coordination between the Washington gun lobby and the Trump administration. In February 2017, a leaked ATF white paper, dated Inauguration Day (January 20, 2017), urged a series of proposals drawn straight from the NRA’s agenda. When President Trump nominated Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in January 2017, the NRA and administration walked in lockstep during the confirmation process, and today, the Senate will hold a hearing on a Trump nominee for the federal bench who explicitly pledged his financial, intellectual, and political support to the NRA. And following the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs tragedies, the White House parroted NRA talking points and refused to address calls for gun safety reforms.

One of the president’s first actions upon taking office was to sign a bill that rolls back a regulation making it harder for people with mental illness to buy firearms – an action that conflicts with the statement he made on Monday, when he blamed the mass shooting in Texas on a “metal health problem.” Other NRA-backed policies enacted by the Trump administration include easing regulations on the use of lead bullets, and cutting the number of fugitives barred from purchasing guns.

The FOIA requests submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) sought:

  • Records related to Trump administration policies on concealed carry reciprocity, gun silencers, bump stocks, and assault weapon exports.

  • Evidence Donald Trump Jr. improperly lobbied on behalf of gun manufacturing companies.

  • Communications between gun lobbying groups, including the NRA, and senior administration officials immediately following the Las Vegas tragedy; and

  • Attempts by the NRA, in coordination with the ATF, to actually review bump stock regulations.

Read the full lawsuit here:

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For nearly 25 years, the legal experts at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have been fighting for a safer America by researching, drafting, and defending the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.

GABBY GIFFORDS RESPONDS TO MASS SHOOTING IN SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TEXAS

November 5, 2017—Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords issued the following statement responding to the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

STATEMENT BY CONGRESSWOMAN GIFFORDS

“I am heartbroken to hear that once again a place for peace and prayer became a scene of horror and fear. My heart is with the people of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, their families and friends, and the first responders who rushed to the scene.

“The alarming frequency with which we watch terrifying scenes unfold in our communities is devastating – and it’s not normal. Every single day, 93 Americans are killed with a gun in our country. In 2016, the number of gun deaths spiked to 38,000. Since the massacre in Las Vegas that took the lives of 58 people and injured hundreds more, there have been 33 mass shootings reported in America, in states like Maryland, Ohio, and California. Today’s shooting in Texas brings that number to 34.

“Churches, schools, and parks should always be safe spaces, where families and friends can gather without fear of violence. But that’s not the America we’re living in today. I am praying that our lawmakers find the courage to face our nation’s gun violence problem. We can build a safer future for our children, but preventing future tragedies requires a president who acknowledges our gun violence problem and members of Congress who will stand up to the gun lobby and take action to save lives. This must stop. The time for action is now.”

EXPERTS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS

The following firearms law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews:

  • Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords

  • Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center

  • Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Giffords Law Center

  • David Chipman, Former ATF Agent, Senior Policy Advisor, Giffords

  • Laura Cutilletta, Legal Director, Giffords Law Center

  • Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center

  • Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords

  • Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director, Giffords Law Center

  • Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center

  • Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THIS SHOOTING

  • At 11:30 AM CT, a lone gunman entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas an opened-fire on the churchgoers. [NBC 4], [New York Times]

  • The alleged shooter is dead. He was killed after a brief chase north into neighboring Guadalupe County. It is unclear if the shooter was killed by police or took his own life. Authorities have not identified him. [KSAT], [ABC 15], [CNN], [New York Times]

  • The FBI and ATF are assisting with the investigation. [ABC 15], [KSAT]

  • Sutherland Springs is a town with a population of roughly 362, and is located 35 miles east of San Antonio. [ABC 15]

New Report Highlights The Lethal Nexus Between Guns & Suicide

New Resource Urges Lawmakers to Combat Rising Suicide Rates By Enacting Proven Lifesaving Solutions  

Guns Are Used in Just 5% of Suicide Attempts But Result In 50% Of All Suicide Deaths

WASHINGTON DC — As our nation struggles to combat a deadly gun suicide crisis that has claimed over 300,000 Americans since 2000, a new report released today in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week highlights the lethal nexus between gun access and suicide. Published by Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide urges lawmakers to combat rising suicide rates by enacting proven lifesaving solutions.  

“The relationship between easy access to guns and suicide rates is undeniable. Guns are only used in 5% of suicide attempts but result in nearly 50% of all suicide deaths,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Too many Americans, including lawmakers, buy into the myth that suicide is inevitable and that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Our new report gathers research from across the field to prove that prevention is possible. Smart gun laws are already saving lives from suicide in the states with the courage to pass commonsense policies like waiting periods for gun purchases and universal background checks. It’s past time that lawmakers in other states step up, push back against the gun lobby’s bullying, and commit themselves to fighting an epidemic that claims over 20,000 American lives each year.”

Today, half of all suicides result from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Yet the link between gun access and suicide risk remains dangerously misunderstood, denied, or ignored. While the gun lobby continues to perpetuate the myth that guns play no role in suicide, the reality is the vast majority of people who attempt suicide survive their attempt—unless they use firearms. This new report outlines some of the key steps lawmakers can take to address this public health crisis. These steps include:

  • Passing Universal Background Checks: Federal law prohibits some people with the most severe histories of mental health impairments and suicidality from accessing firearms, including people who have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for their own safety. But current loopholes in the background check system let some prohibited individuals acquire guns from unlicensed sellers without a background check in many states.  

  • Passing Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) Laws: Many severely mentally ill individuals fall outside the federal definition of a prohibited purchaser, which enables them to buy guns. An ERPO creates a standard civil court process that empowers families to temporarily remove firearms from their loved ones who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • Empowering Voluntary Gun Removals: In some cases, family, friends, therapists, or physicians can successfully convince a struggling person to temporarily hand over their firearms. Lawmakers should encourage or require local law enforcement to develop clear protocols to accept and temporarily store firearms voluntarily relinquished by suicidal individuals.

  • Enacting Waiting Periods: Suicide attempts are typically impulsive, singular episodes that involve little planning. By adding a small but crucial cooling off period for people purchasing guns, lawmakers can help prevent at-risk people from immediately acquiring the most lethal means of suicide during acute crises.

  • Promoting Safe Storage Responsible: Gun storage practices and laws blocking minors from purchasing their own guns can be credited with saving many young people’s lives. Laws that make it harder for minors to access unsecured guns and ammunition help to prevent senseless tragedies.

  • Promoting Smart Gun Technology: Smart guns could be a potential game-changer for suicide prevention efforts, particularly among youth. If a child’s parents, neighbors, and extended family members could use the same user-authentication features on their gun as they have on their phone, thousands of young lives would be saved. Lawmakers can help promote these gun safety innovations by enlisting consumer and product safety agencies to test and certify new models’ safety and reliability.

  • Strengthening and Protecting Doctors’ Ability To Save Lives: Doctors and other healthcare professionals are commonly expected to talk with patients about their safety and well-being, and play a critical role in identifying and treating patients at risk of suicide. But a relatively small number of primary care professionals receive suicide prevention training and too few incorporate counseling about suicide and gun safety into their routine patient care. Improving primary care providers’ knowledge and training about suicide prevention is important because these providers come into frequent contact with patients at high risk of suicide.  

Read the full report: Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide

STATEMENT: Gun Violence Prevention Organizations React to DC Circuit Court Ruling about Carrying Loaded Guns in Public

WASHINGTON, DC —  A ruling announced this morning by the D.C. Circuit Court found that there is a broad right to carry loaded guns in public places and struck down the District’s concealed carry permitting regime. This ruling conflicts with previous rulings by several other Circuit courts, all of which have upheld strong concealed carry licensing regimes that are virtually identical to the District’s. The decision today was a divided 2-1 vote, with a dissent from a judge originally appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan and elevated to the DC Circuit by George HW Bush. It is very likely that the District will ask for full court en banc review.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, issued the following reaction:

Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

“By striking down Washington D.C.’s concealed-carry-licensing law, today’s decision from the D.C. Circuit undermines public safety and will prevent law enforcement from ensuring that those carrying hidden, loaded guns in the nation’s capital have good reason to do so. The decision is out-of-step not only with every other federal appeals court to consider the issue, but also with centuries of American tradition showing that reasonable gun regulations are fully consistent with the right to keep and bear arms.  And it stands in contrast to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that left in place the well-reasoned opinion from the Ninth Circuit, which upheld a California law indistinguishable from Washington’s.

“We are confident that the full D.C. Circuit will reconsider today’s 2-1 decision and reverse this outlier opinion, and we expect that the Supreme Court will allow D.C.’s commonsense concealed-carry law to stand, as it has done time and again with nearly identical laws. We look forward to working with the District to keep our nation’s capital safe and to overturning this radical decision.”

The Law Center joined an amicus brief coordinated by the Brady Center that defended the constitutionality of the District’s concealed carry regime and argues that this regime does not violate the Second Amendment. The brief also focused on the relevant evidence provided by social science research and the perspective of law enforcement with respect to the regulation of concealed carry in public places. The brief argued that there is a strong policy justification for a concealed carry permitting regime that requires applicants to demonstrate an elevated level of need before a permit may be issued. Read the full brief here.

To speak with a gun violence prevention expert, email [email protected].