Mikulski Floor Statement on FY17 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill & Gun Amendments
***Audio of statement for download– here (broadcast quality)
***Video of statement for download– here (broadcast quality)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), spoke on the Senate floor about the fiscal year 2017 CJS Appropriations bill, as well as the gun related amendments being considered Monday evening.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“We are now debating the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. The CJS bill provides a total of $53.6 billion for the Department of Commerce, Department of Justice (DOJ), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other agencies funded by the bill.
“Some might think I simply want to move this bill along and that a filibuster is an impediment. But I’m so glad and so proud of what we did here last week. Senators Murphy, Booker and Blumenthal held the floor to force action on stopping terror suspects from getting guns and requiring background checks for all gun sales so we can curb gun violence. So many members came down to support Senators Murphy, Booker and Blumenthal, filibustering for common sense changes to our gun laws. The result is that our Republican colleagues will allow votes to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
“The horrible shooting in Orlando was a terrible act of terrorism and hate, killing 49 innocent people a little over a week ago. This isn’t the first time a terrorist filled with hate and armed with a high powered weapon has mowed down his fellow citizens. Innocent Americans going about their lives, murdered in churches, schools, movie theaters, at work in places like Charleston, Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino – the list goes on.
“Our cities are also suffering from gun violence. In Baltimore, 90 percent of homicides are from shootings. More than 900 people were shot last year. And while not all gunshots are fatal, all of them injure, maim and change lives.
“America wants to know the answer to, ‘when will the Senate take action to curb gun violence?’ We should be looking to keep guns out of the wrong hands. But today, if you are on the terror watch list, you can walk into a gun store and in three days or less you can walk out with a high powered rifle and high capacity magazine – unless you have already committed a crime. In other words, you can’t get on an airplane, but you can buy an AR-15 and be ready to answer the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) call to jihad. That is unbelievable. And that’s what Senator Feinstein’s amendment would fix. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of her amendment. I’m glad the Senate will vote on it, and I hope we pass it.
“Senator Cornyn’s amendment seems like it’s similar to the one offered by Senator Feinstein to prevent terrorists from purchasing guns. It is not the same. Senator Cornyn’s amendment would require law enforcement seeking to stop a gun sale to first prove in a court of law that the terror suspect will commit an act of terror. The Department of Justice couldn’t stop a sale to a person who is suspected of terror ties and who is likely to use the firearm in connection with terror. Rather, the government would need to prove the person will actually commit terrorism. What’s more, the amendment would give the government only 72 hours to bring the suspected terrorist to court and meet this incredible standard – or else the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) would be unable to block the sale. The Cornyn alternative amendment would leave the terror gap wide open.
“I also hope we pass the Murphy amendment to close the gun show loophole. Today, 40 percent of gun sales are unlicensed, taking place at gun shows or through online sales. That means 40 percent of gun sales have no background check, giving felons, abusers and terrorists easy access to guns.
“The Murphy amendment helps with two things. One, it gets all the names of people prohibited from buying guns into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is the federal background check system run by the FBI. Two, it requires background checks for the sale or transfer of all firearms by private sellers. In 18 states where background checks are required for all handgun sales, 46 percent fewer women are killed by domestic partners and 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are killed with handguns. I urge my colleagues to pass this amendment, too.
“Senator Grassley’s amendment claims to fix background checks, but it fails to close loopholes in current law that allow buyers to evade background checks. In fact, the Grassley amendment makes it easier for persons with mental illness to obtain guns. This amendment would allow people who have been involuntarily committed, due to severe mental illness, to buy a gun shortly after leaving a psychiatric hospital. And it invalidates hundreds of thousands of mental health records already in the background check system. That means more troubled people could legally buy powerful weapons. And we wonder why people are cynical about Congress.
“There are many policy steps we can take to make America safer. At some point we will discuss my amendment to add $175 million in emergency spending for the FBI to fight terrorism here at home and abroad, but for too long, the Senate has refused efforts to strengthen our gun laws. Now is the time to seize the moment. Surely the Senate can agree with 90 percent of Americans, the hundreds of Marylanders who called my office last week and the thousands more following this on social media. It is time to take the first small steps to close loopholes that let criminals and terrorists buy guns legally.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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