Van Hollen Leads Colleagues in Introduction of Bills to Reduce Gun Violence, Implement Common-Sense Safety Measures
Senator Van Hollen’s first bills of the new Congress focus on improving ATF, expanding handgun permit-to-purchase laws
Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led several of his Democratic colleagues in reintroducing two bills to help curb gun violence and strengthen gun safety. The Senator’s ATF Improvement and Modernization (AIM) Act – led by Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) in the House – would improve and modernize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to better equip the Bureau to crack down on gun violence and the illegal use of firearms. The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act – co-led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in the Senate and led by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) in the House – would incentivize state and local governments to implement permit-to-purchase laws that require individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun.
“From the mass shootings that traumatize entire communities to the painful toll of daily gun violence in our neighborhoods, we must take action to end the avoidable tragedies roiling our nation. These bills provide a two-pronged approach to reduce gun violence: promoting responsible gun safety measures and providing law enforcement the tools they need to keep our streets safer. Americans are sick of waking up to the news of more lives lost and are sick of waiting for the Congress to take action. We are introducing these bills at the start of this session to underscore the urgency of this issue,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“These mass shootings and the daily grim death toll in our communities are ripping up the American social contract,” said Representative Raskin, who is leading the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act in the House. “Congress has the power right now to dramatically reduce the gun casualty rate and get guns out of the hands of a lot of dangerous people. I'm proud to introduce legislation with Senator Van Hollen and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for a federal grant program to incentivize states to adopt handgun licensing requirements and am thrilled to join Senator Van Hollen’s and Congressman Beyer’s effort to empower the ATF to clamp down on criminal organizations and firearms trafficking.”
“For years the gun lobby and its allies in Congress have complained that ‘we should just enforce existing laws’ even as they hollowed out the federal agency charged with enforcing them. As gun violence continues to ravage our communities and claim American lives, it’s critical that Congress give the ATF the tools it needs to make American communities safer,” said Congressman Beyer, who is leading the AIM Act in the House. “Our legislation, the AIM Act, would take a commonsense approach to remove barriers that hamper the ATF’s mission to prevent criminals from acquiring and using guns. I appreciate Senator Van Hollen and the gun violence prevention leaders who worked with us to craft this important bill, and urge my colleagues to support it.”
“Requiring a license to purchase a handgun is a common sense measure proven to save lives. As seen by Connecticut’s drop in gun homicides following our ‘permit-to-purchase’ law, these standards are successful in keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. This legislation is a public health investment – protecting communities shattered by our gun violence epidemic,” said Senator Blumenthal,who is a cosponsor of the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act.
“After Connecticut passed its permit-to-purchase law, we saw a massive drop in gun homicides. Requiring a license to buy a handgun will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and save lives, and this legislation will incentivize more states to follow Connecticut’s lead,”said Senator Murphy, who is a cosponsor of the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act.
“Persistent gun violence in the United States is an epidemic that must be addressed at every level. We must invest in common-sense solutions to make our communities safer. In Connecticut, we have seen firsthand how licensing laws have reduced gun violence; however, one state cannot end this crisis alone,” said Representative Hayes who is a cosponsor of the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act. “I join Rep. Raskin and Sens. Van Hollen, Murphy and Blumenthal in providing grant opportunities for state and local governments to implement permit-to-purchase laws that will protect people across the country.
The AIM Act would remove irresponsible statutory restrictions that stand in the way of ATF’s mission to protect the public from violent criminals, criminal organizations, and the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, and provide support to law enforcement and public safety partners in communities nationwide. The bill modernizes ATF processes to support law enforcement officials tracing firearms involved in crimes. Permitting ATF to consolidate and centralize the records it receives from firearms dealers will improve its current non-searchable system, which unnecessarily stalls criminal investigations. As a consequence of a centralized, searchable digital database, law enforcement will be better able to detect patterns that indicate gun trafficking. The AIM Act also allows the FBI to maintain background check information longer than the current 24-hour limit. This change helps to deter fraud and facilitate firearms retrieval actions if the agency learns, after the fact, that a gun sale was improper.
The bill enhances ATF’s capability to crack down on “bad apple” gun dealers. Permitting stricter compliance requirements and reforming the rules governing federal license revocation will ensure that firearms dealers comply with laws and regulations that protect the public from dangerous weapons. Lastly, the AIM Act will make ATF more responsive to the public, including journalists, researchers, and potential litigants, whose access to ATF gun trace data is currently restricted.
The text of the AIM Act is available here.
The AIM Act is supported by Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, March for Our Lives, and Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act creates a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license from law enforcement before purchasing a handgun. Licensing laws – or permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws – are effective, common-sense policies to reduce gun violence. According to research conducted by the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in 2015, these laws are statistically proven to reduce firearm homicides and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
While details of these laws may vary, a grant recipient’s PTP law must, at a minimum, require prospective handgun owners to: apply for a permit from a state-designated law enforcement agency; submit to a background check to ensure they are not barred by federal law from possessing firearms; and be 21 or older. The PTP law must also require licensed individuals to renew their handgun permits within five years. Maryland and Connecticut are among the 11 states (plus the District of Columbia) that currently have PTP laws on the books.
The text of the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act is available here.
The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act is supported by Brady, Giffords, March for Our Lives, and Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
“For far too long, the agency charged with overseeing gun laws in this country has been underfunded and hamstrung by antiquated systems. This was by design, preventing the ATF from adequately overseeing critical components of the gun industry. We applaud Senator Van Hollen and Representative Beyer for reintroducing The ATF Improvement and Modernization Act (AIM) Act this session. This much needed Act will help bring the ATF into the 21st century,” said Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence Executive Director, Karen Herren.
“Despite the fact that gun licensing is an effective way to ensure that guns are only purchased by responsible individuals, only a handful of states currently have them. Incentivizing states to pass these licensing or permit to purchase laws is a much needed move toward protecting the public. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence applauds Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Jamie Raskin’s reintroduction of the Handgun Permit to Purchase Act,” she continued.
“One of the major causes of American gun violence is the unique and unprecedented protections from oversight that the gun industry has been provided,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “The ATF Improvement and Modernization Act will allow ATF to more effectively and efficiently oversee the corporate firearms industry and hold accountable those actors who are engaging in negligent, irresponsible, or illegal business practices which fuel the criminal gun market. Brady is proud to endorse this legislation and applauds Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Beyer for their leadership on this issue,”
“State licensing for handguns, including permit to purchase, has long shown to be among the most effective tools to prevent gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act will incentivize and assist state and local governments in enacting these life-saving requirements for gun purchases tailored to the needs of their community,” Brady President Kris Brown, continued. “Brady proudly endorses this legislation and thanks Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Raskin for reintroducing this important bill.”
“As our nation once again reels from multiple mass shootings and continued incidents of community violence, it is imperative that our elected leaders take swift action to address the gun violence crisis. The AIM Act would enable ATF to more effectively regulate the gun industry and combat gun trafficking and violent crime. The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act would help states create permit-to-purchase systems for handguns, which are known to help reduce gun homicides and suicides as well as give states the opportunity to provide guidance for responsible gun ownership. We applaud Senator Van Hollen for advancing these common sense measures to protect public safety and thank him for his steadfast commitment to end gun violence,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords Federal Affairs Director.
“As the first few weeks of this year showed, we need bold policies that hold both gun ownership, and the gun industry to standards that will keep our communities safe from gun violence. The ATF Improvement and Modernization Act will remove restrictions that stand in the way of allowing the ATF to protect us from irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers who continue to allow crime guns to flow into communities across the country,” says Elena Perez, Senior Policy Associate at March for Our Lives. “The Handgun Permit to Purchase Act is also another grim reminder that our country needs stronger standards for gun ownership. If you need a license to drive a car, we believe there should be no question that you should need one to purchase a handgun. March For Our Lives is proud to support both of these pieces of legislation, and thank Senator Van Hollen for believing that the American people deserve accountability for the harm caused by the gun industry, and basic standards for gun ownership.”
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