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Legislation Introduced to Close Background Check Loophole

November 10, 2017, 10:50 AM HST
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Bipartisan legislation was introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) and Rep. Scott Taylor (Virginia-02) that will close the loophole exploited by the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter and ensure that any individual convicted of domestic violence, whether it is in criminal or military court, cannot legally purchase a firearm.

The Domestic Violence Loophole Closure Act would require the Department of Defense to report any member of the Armed Forces convicted of domestic violence offenses to the NICS within three days of conviction.

If the DoD fails to submit the required information then it will be required to submit to Congress a written notice on the failure to submit. A companion bill (S.2094) has been introduced by Sens. Jeff Flake (Arizona) and Martin Heinrich (New Mexico).

“Keeping firearms out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence is already the law of the land and must be enforced across the board,” said Rep. Gabbard. “The shooting in Sutherland Springs exposed a glaring hole in Department of Defense reporting requirements that made it possible for the shooter to purchase a gun, even though a military court found him guilty of domestic violence while serving in the Air Force. Our bipartisan legislation increases transparency and mandates reporting of service members convicted of domestic violence to the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which would prevent them from purchasing or owning firearms. Congress must act and pass this commonsense measure to help improve the safety of our communities.”

“The shooting in Sutherland Springs this past weekend has led many people to ask what could have been done to prevent this tragedy,” said Rep. Taylor. “Our constitution protects the rights of law-abiding citizens, and I will defend them. The testimony from the U.S. Air Force which surfaced in recent days, clearly shows there is a gap in DoD reporting requirements of domestic abuse crimes to the FBI database, with respect to how they match up with civilian domestic abuse crimes. Studies show offenders committing these acts are more likely to inflict harm on others utilizing a gun. This bill responsibly tightens the reporting requirements of DoD to report service members who are convicted of committing domestic violence and will help to ensure violent criminals do not obtain firearms.”

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Currently, the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a specific charge of domestic violence, instead charging such cases as general assault. This can complicate the enforcement of the domestic-violence ban on gun purchases, as happened with the shooter responsible for the deaths of 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, whose crime of domestic violence did not disqualify him from purchasing a firearm. The Air Force and the Department of Defense Inspector General are currently investigating the internal reasons as to why the shooter’s domestic violence case was not reported to NICS.

This bill permanently clarifies the ambiguity in 1996 Lautenberg amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits the possession of firearms by individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. This bill applies to the military, and requires the military to report misdemeanors of domestic violence to the NICS database to be used in background checks for all legal gun purchases.

The FBI reports only one active case of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction has been reported by the DOD, while there have been 10,956 records reported due to dishonorable discharge.

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