January 30, 2020

Senator Warren and Representative Johnson Unveil Comprehensive Legislation to Help End Epidemic of Gun Violence in America

Sweeping Bill Implements a Series of Common-Sense Reforms to Address Deadly Crisis; Giffords, March For Our Lives, NAACP, Newtown Action Alliance, and Other Prominent Groups Endorse Bold Action on Guns; Legislation Comes Ahead of National Gun Violence Survivors Week

Bill Text (PDF) | Bill Summary (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today announced the introduction of the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, which includes and builds upon Congressional Democrats' strongest gun safety legislation in one bold, comprehensive bill that works to end the epidemic of gun violence in America. The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act is cosponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) will introduce the House version of the bill. The entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation has also signed onto the bill.

Every day -- in homes and on sidewalks, in schools and supermarkets, in places of worship and workplaces -- Americans are killed or injured by gun violence. In 2017, gun violence claimed the lives of 39,773 people in the U.S.--the highest number of gun-related deaths since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking the data in 1968. According to Giffords, 100 people are killed with guns in the U.S. every single day, 4 of which are children or teens. This is a distinctly American crisis, with the U.S. having nearly half of the estimated 857 million civilian-owned guns in the world, and a gun homicide rate that is 25 times higher and a gun suicide rate that is 10 times higher than rates of other comparable countries.

Federal law has failed to address this deadly epidemic. Federal gun laws are rife with loopholes and contradictions, and have been severely weakened by the gun industry, which has worked to hamstring meaningful regulation, shield the gun industry from liability, and weaken the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) -- the agency tasked with enforcing gun laws.

The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act would help address this deadly crisis. The bill would:

  • Create a federal gun licensing system and require a federal or state-issued firearms license to purchase or own a gun, and establish a grant program to help states set up their own systems.
  • Require universal background checks, close legal loopholes that allow individuals to skirt background check requirements, and require background check denials to be reported to law enforcement.
  • Keep guns out of the wrong hands by banning individuals who present safety risks from buying guns, establishing Extreme Risk Protection Order systems, and cracking down on gun theft.
  • Ensure that guns are used and stored responsibly by raising the minimum age for all gun or ammunition purchases to 21, establishing a 7-day waiting period for the purchase of all guns, strengthening gun storage laws, and banning guns on all school campuses.
  • Keep weapons of war off our streets by banning military-style assault weapons, lethal gun accessories, and untraceable and undetectable firearms.
  • Crack down on gun trafficking by banning bulk gun purchases and establishing a new law to specifically ban gun trafficking.
  • Improve oversight of gun dealers by strengthening ATF's authority to inspect gun shops, enhancing record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and repealing harmful appropriations riders that limit law enforcement's ability to trace guns that are used in crimes and hold gun dealers accountable when they break the law.
  • Hold the gun industry accountable by clarifying that gun manufacturers can be held liable for civil penalties for the harms their guns cause, authorizing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to address safety defects in firearms and firearm accessories, and raising the excise tax on gun sales to 30% and ammunition sales to 50%.
  • Invest in research and community-based gun violence prevention by providing $100 million in annual funding for federal research into gun violence and creating a new grant program to provide $100 million per year for gun violence intervention programs.

Democrats have been leading the fight to pass common-sense legislation to end gun violence and save lives. The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act incorporates a number of bills led by other senators, including Senator Richard Blumenthal's (D-Conn.) Background Check Completion Act, Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, Untraceable Firearms Act, Ethan's Law, Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, and Safe Gun Storage Act; Senator Chris Coons' (D-Del.) NICS Denial Notification Act of 2019; Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 and Extreme Risk Protection Order Act; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act; Senator Amy Klobuchar's (D-Minn.) Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act; Senator Markey's MASS Act and Gun Violence Prevention Research Act, with inspection-related provisions based on the Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act; Senator Menendez's Help Empower Americans to Respond Act and Keep Americans Safe Act; Senator Chris Murphy's (D-Conn.) Background Check Expansion Act; and provisions inspired by Senator Booker's Break the Cycle of Violence Act.

Senator Warren has also introduced the most sweeping set of ethics, lobbying, and anti-corruption reforms in Congress, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in order to break the stranglehold of the National Rifle Association and other big-money groups on Congress and pass critical reforms to protect Americans, including common-sense gun laws.

"This big, bold proposal--which combines and builds upon a number of common-sense measures introduced by my colleagues in Congress--would treat the epidemic of gun violence in the United States like the public health crisis that it is, help protect our children, and make our communities safer," said Senator Warren. "With approximately 100 Americans killed every day from gun violence, it's long past time for Congress to stand up to the gun lobby and confront this deadly crisis head-on."

"I commend Sen. Warren for taking bold action to address the scourge of gun violence in our nation, and I'm proud to introduce its companion in the House," said Representative Johnson. "The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act will save lives and make our country safer -- without infringing on any law-abiding individual's right to own firearms. This comprehensive bill is a compilation of the best ideas to create a workable set of laws that will strengthen life-saving background checks, protect communities with bolstered enforcement, improve mental health services and fuel research to make guns safer. It is time for Congress come together and end the epidemic of gun violence in this country once and for all."

"Too many lives are tragically lost at the hand of a gun on our streets, to suicide, and in mass shootings.  The American people are demanding Congress act to end the bloodshed and senseless death," said Senator Menendez. "No one bill is going to solve the problem; it's going to take a comprehensive, holistic approach.  That's why I'm proud to cosponsor and contribute to the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, which addresses gun violence in all forms, treats it like the public health epidemic it is, and will save lives."

"Whether through a mass shooting, day-to-day gun violence, or a firearm-inflicted suicide, nearly every community in Massachusetts and across the country has lost blood because of the scourge of gun violence," said Senator Markey. "We need to treat gun violence like the public health crisis it is. Senator Warren's Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act reflects the urgency of this crisis and creates a comprehensive plan to address it. I'm proud that it includes provisions from legislation I previously introduced to strengthen gun licensing laws and expand research into gun violence prevention. Our nation loses 36,000 lives each year to this epidemic -- enough is enough. Congress must act now."

"The epidemic of gun violence is ravaging our communities and tearing our families apart," Senator Booker said. "Ending this daily nightmare demands bold solutions and I'm encouraged to see provisions inspired by my Break the Cycle of Violence legislation included in Senator Warren's comprehensive proposal. Together, we will confront this crisis by implementing solutions that work and finally, put an end to gun violence."


The legislation is endorsed by the American Public Health Association; Amnesty International USA; Boston Medical Center; Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities; Futures Without Violence; Giffords; Guns Down America; Jewish Women International; March For Our Lives; Massachusetts Medical Society; Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence; NAACP; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Council of Jewish Women; Newtown Action Alliance; States United to Prevent Gun Violence; and Stop Handgun Violence.

"Each year, over 36,000 people in the United States are killed with a gun, and hundreds of thousands more are injured. Gun violence has turned into an epidemic hurting communities in every part of our country," said Robin Lloyd, Managing Director of Giffords. "A challenge of this magnitude can't be solved with one policy alone. It requires a comprehensive solution, where we address gun violence from multiple angles and through multiple methods. That's why we're grateful to Senator Warren and Representative Johnson for introducing the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020. This is an example of the type of vision we'll need to truly make an impact in reducing gun violence." 

"Since a gunman with an AR-15 gunned down 20 children and six educators in our elementary school in Sandy Hook seven years ago, more than 700,000 Americans have been killed or injured by guns," said Po Murray, Newtown Action Alliance. "We have been imploring Congress to pass a set of comprehensive policies to end gun violence in America. Senator Warren's Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act is a policy prescription that would dramatically reduce all forms of gun deaths and injuries and Congress must pass this bill immediately."

"We applaud the bold leadership of Senator Warren for introducing such a comprehensive piece of legislation," said Eve Levenson, Federal Affairs Manager at March For Our Lives. "This is exactly the sort of action we hoped to inspire when we released our Peace Plan For A Safer America this summer. If we are to put an end to gun violence in our country, then as this bill proposes, we must commit to a gun licensing system, universal background checks, and other measures that will protect all Americans and save lives, particularly young people."

 "The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) applauds Senator Warren for introducing a comprehensive gun violence prevention package bill that makes giant strides toward protecting victims and survivors of domestic violence from armed abusers. A woman is murdered by an abuser with a gun every sixteen hours," said Ruth M. Glenn, President and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Four-and-a-half million American women alive today have been directly threatened by an abuser with a firearm; of these, 1 million have been shot or shot at. At a time when intimate partner femicides are increasing, driven by an increase in intimate partner gun femicides, this bill is more important ever. NCADV also recognizes the leadership of the Members of Congress whose bills are included in this important package. Together, we can disarm domestic abusers and end the scourge of gun-involved domestic violence."

"We applaud Senator Warren for proposing strong federal gun legislation. Currently, Massachusetts suffers the consequences of gaps and loopholes in the patchwork of other states' laws which result in guns being trafficked into the Commonwealth. Comprehensive federal legislation is necessary to stem the tide of gun violence in Massachusetts and across the nation," said Zoe Grover, Executive Director of Stop Handgun Violence.

"The physicians of the Massachusetts Medical Society applaud and support Senator Warren's and Representative Johnson's leadership and thoughtful approach toward protecting our patients by reducing the harm and avoidable death caused by gun violence," said Dr. Maryanne C. Bombaugh, President of Massachusetts Medical Society. "We recognize that we must address this public health crisis urgently and with a comprehensive approach that includes rigorous and sustained research into the causes and prevention of gun violence."

"We applaud Senator Warren for addressing the epidemic of gun violence with a multi-faceted legislative model similar to what we have in Massachusetts," said Ruth Zakarin, Executive Director of Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. "If every state had the same gun death rate as Massachusetts, 27,000 lives a year would be saved. We support this multi-pronged plan, which includes not just legislation, but funding for community-based violence intervention programs and expanded gun violence research. This approach will move us towards a world where we all can go to school, walk through our communities, and attend houses of worship without fear of gun violence."

"Meredith Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Women International (JWI), applauds Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Hank Johnson for introducing the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act. As an organization that has spent decades working to close the 'boyfriend loophole' JWI appreciates the inclusion of important provisions that ban violent offenders from purchasing or possessing firearms. While there is no single solution to end the scourge of violence in our nation, this bill's comprehensive approach will make each of us safer."

"Senator Warren's comprehensive bill encompasses the best practices for saving lives from the ravage of Gun Violence. The majority of Americans are calling for strong and swift action to stop the rising increase of gun violence in America. States United to Prevent Gun Violence looks forward to working with Senator Warren to pass this piece of legislation," said Clai Lasher-Sommers, Executive Director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence.

"National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) welcomes Senator Warren's comprehensive Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act. For more than 50 years, NCJW has been advocating for gun safety laws, guided by the Jewish value of Kavod HaBriyot: respect and dignity for all human beings -- we have an obligation to care for and to protect our neighbors. It's no secret that America has a gun violence problem. Our movie theaters, places of worship, schools, streets, and homes are not safe. We owe it to victims, survivors, and families in communities impacted by gun violence every day to pass this important gun safety measure -- which addresses so many critical firearms issues -- to help address the epidemic of gun violence," said Sheila Katz, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

"Massachusetts has long been a leader for safe, sensible gun policies. Strict licensing standards, training and safety requirements, background checks for all, secure storage and restrictions on assault-style weapons have all contributed to our state having one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths in the country. I applaud Senator Warren for filing this comprehensive gun safety legislation that will ultimately save lives," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh, City of Boston.

"Our youth have called on us to end the scourge of gun violence in America, and Senator Warren is answering that call. I'm proud to say that Massachusetts has passed some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but every child in America deserves to feel the safety that comes from knowing that guns are being handled in a responsible way. I am deeply grateful to Senator Warren to taking this issue seriously, and to looking to the leadership of her home state to create meaningful gun violence prevention legislation that will benefit us all," said Massachusetts Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

"I support Senator Warren's Gun Violence & Community Safety Act, because it offers common-sense, tangible steps that we can take as a nation to prevent even more senseless deaths from gun violence. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and, though I've heard some people attempt to argue otherwise, improving gun safety is not in any way antithetical to our constitutional rights. Preserving the right to bear arms should never mean that we surrender the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of our children and our families to people who would seek to do them harm with firearms," said Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

"Access to firearms is one of the highest indicators for domestic violence homicide and the most lethal method of suicide. I support Sen. Warren's legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them to prevent tragedies. The provisions in this bill are practical steps towards protecting our community and law enforcement officers," said District Attorney Andrea Harrington, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.