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Domestic Violence Advocates and Law Enforcement Join Forces, Urge Congress to Pass the Fix NICS Act

November 29, 2017

Guns for Domestic Violence Abusers Connected to Mass Shootings

WASHINGTON, DC – In a noon press conference at the Capitol today, national domestic violence and law enforcement organizations endorsed the Fix NICS Act, S. 2135 – legislation to help prevent future tragedies like the recent church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, by ensuring that individuals convicted of domestic violence are tracked by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and prevented from obtaining firearms.

“The Fix NICS Act is a scorching indictment of laxity in the current background check system,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), the legislation’s co-sponsor along with Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). “If the Fix NICS Act passes, we believe a lot of lives will be saved.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), another cosponsor of S. 2135, also addressed the need for the Fix NICS bill: “Collaborating with domestic violence advocates and law enforcement is magic. This is why we have bipartisan support.” Blumenthal also noted, “The US Air Force Secretary released a preliminary report indicting the lax, fatal flaws in enforcement on three or more occasions to report to the background check system on the Sutherland Springs, Texas, assailant.”

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), representing all 56 state and territory domestic violence coalitions, announced its support for the urgent passage of the Fix NICS Act:

“We cannot continue to ignore the red flags linking domestic violence and mass shootings,” said Kim Gandy, NNEDV president and CEO. “After every mass shooting, advocates brace ourselves for the inevitable, predictable, and preventable news that the shooter has a history of domestic violence, and should not have been able to buy a firearm.

NNEDV President & CEO, Kim Gandy giving remarks at the Fix NICS Press Conference.

“The background check system is broken. Inconsistent implementation of current law has left domestic violence victims, and all of us, dangerously vulnerable. This bill will save lives by ensuring that firearms are kept out of the hands of people with a history of domestic abuse,” said Gandy.

Speakers noted that gunmen responsible for dozens of recent deaths had histories of domestic violence. In Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month, a gunman opened fire at a small church, murdering 26 adults and children. A convicted abuser, he should have been barred from owning a firearm, but lapses in data entry meant that he easily purchased a weapon that he later used to gun down dozens of innocent people.

Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence, urged immediate action, saying: “There are a few dates that Texans remember. Sunday, November 5th will forever stay in our hearts and minds, for that was the day of the Texas mass shooting in Sutherland Springs. I paid my respects in person and I made a silent vow that their lives lost would not be in vain.”

“Legislation without accountability means very little,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, whose organization backs the bill and noted that the National Sheriffs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police have also expressed support.

Giovanna Rodriguez, a mother from Rhode Island, shared her harrowing story of survival: “I am here to represent the survivors who lived in terror or still live in terror because their abuser has access to a gun. I stand to represent the survivors who cannot be here because their voices have been forever silenced.” Ms. Rodriguez is part of a coalition of survivors in Rhode Island who won stronger state protections to prevent abusers from using firearms to terrorize their victims, as Rodriguez’s husband did.  She called on the federal government to strengthen the background check system through the Fix NICS Act so that survivors in every state and community can be protected from gun violence.

Ruth Glenn, president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a survivor of gun violence, shared her personal story of survival and resilience, as well as her organization’s support for the bill’s passage. “I am one of the millions who was shot and lived,” said Glenn. “We are aware that we can do better by uniformly uploading protection orders in the system, which has not been happening.”

Esta Soler, president of FUTURES Without Violence, closed the press conference by urging Congress to take action and strengthen the system to prevent such tragedies in the future, both for victims of domestic violence and for our communities.  Soler said: “If we want to end mass shootings, we must do three things: 1) prevent domestic violence; 2) help traumatized children heal and thrive; and 3) keep guns away from men with violent histories.”

The Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative in the Fix NICS bill provides states with adequate funding and resources to share information about prohibited purchasers with NICS. This bill also requires federal and state agencies to submit NICS implementation plans that outline how they will upload all prohibitory information into the background check system.

(L to R): Ruth Glenn, President of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Giovanna Rodriguez, survivor; Kim Gandy, NNEDV President & CEO; Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership; Esta Soler, President of FUTURES Without Violence; Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence