Mikulski Focused on Resources and Actions Needed to Keep American Communities and Families Safe from Gun Violence
***Broadcast quality video for download – opening statement & Q&A
***Broadcast quality audio for download– opening statement & full Q&A
***YouTube video of opening statement – here
***YouTube video of Q&A -- here
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee, attended a CJS hearing on the Department of Justice’s role in implementing new executive actions related to gun violence.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Today’s hearing is our first of the year. I’m glad to be back with Chairman Shelby.
“This hearing tackles the very pressing issue of gun violence. On average, 297 Americans are shot each day. Eighty-nine – almost a third – die. We need to change our nation’s culture of violence by taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses, without infringing on the right of law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms.
“For too long, Congress has failed to act on measures to keep us safe, including common sense reforms to close the gun show loophole, improve background checks for gun purchasers and strengthen mental health services.
“I support the President’s measures on guns. He’s within his constitutional authority to act, and many of these actions, like adding more Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents, have been strongly supported by this Committee.
“I look forward to hearing Attorney General Lynch’s testimony today on the impacts the President’s recent announcement on guns will have on the Justice Department and the American people, as well as the testimony of the outside witnesses on our second panel.
“As appropriators, we put money in the federal checkbook. As part of the Omnibus that we just passed with bipartisan support in December, we included funding for the Justice Department is $29.1 billion, with over $1 billion to help reduce gun violence.
“What will this $1 billion buy? It will give ATF $840 million to enforce gun laws, trace firearms found at crime scenes and keep illegal guns away from traffickers and criminals. With $125 million, the FBI will enhance their capacity to run background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of known criminals. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) grants will provide $73 million to help states improve the quality of criminal and mental health records entered into the system the FBI uses to run background checks. There is also $15 million to train local police how to best respond to active shooter scenarios.
“Those are funds for the current fiscal year 2016. For fiscal year 2017, the President has indicated he will propose additional funding for hiring more ATF and FBI agents to investigate firearm trafficking and ensure guns are only going into the hands of responsible owners. The President will also propose $500 million to promote mental health as a top priority by increasing Americans’ access to quality mental health care. I look forward to those requests.
“While we look forward to seeing more details on this funding in the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget, our authorizers have been working on legislation, too. I cosponsored Senator Feinstein’s bill, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, to keep people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. And Senators Murphy and Cassidy have come together on the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, which is being discussed before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee right now. I support both of these bipartisan legislative efforts.
“Sadly, deadly gun violence has become all too familiar in Maryland and across our nation. No one should be afraid to attend a religious service, go to school, visit a shopping mall or see a movie in a theater.
“We must all pull together – because we are all in this together. We need less partisanship and more citizenship. That’s what my constituents want. That’s what our nation needs. I will keep fighting to end violence by working with my colleagues in Congress and supporting the President’s gun safety actions, because we must do more to protect our children and our communities, not only with words, prayers and vigils, but with actual deeds.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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