Skip to content

Feinstein on Gun Violence: ‘Far Past Time to Act’

Washington—In recognition of Gun Violence Awareness Month, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement in support of legislation to address the rising epidemic of gun violence in the United States:

            “I became mayor of San Francisco as a result of gun violence. And from my first day in the Senate, trying to reduce the number of lives needlessly lost to gun violence has been my mission.

            I authored the federal Assault Weapons Ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. Since that ban expired 15 years ago, the number of mass shootings has risen dramatically.

            According to data from Mother Jones, which defines a mass shooting as four or more people killed, we have suffered through 77 such massacres – leaving 643 dead and 1,055 injured.

            That’s why I have introduced an updated Assault Weapons Ban, which will keep weapons of war off of our streets. 

            Compared with the 10-year period before the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, the number of gun massacres between 1994 and 2004 fell by 37 percent. The number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent.

            The fact is that the assault weapons ban worked.

            Firearms like the AR-15 have become the mass shooter’s weapon of choice, and they become even more dangerous with the use of modifications like bump stocks.

            We’ll never forget that in 2017 in Las Vegas, 58 people were killed and 422 wounded in our nation’s worst mass shooting.

            Simply put, there is no reason why civilians need weapons like these. 

            They’re not for protection and they’re not for hunting. They are weapons of war designed to take lives, and that’s why we need to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban.

            Since 1966, there have been 163 mass shootings with at least four people killed. 1,165 people have lost their lives, 189 of whom were children or teenagers.

            The statistics on school shootings are even more sobering.

            Since the shooting at Columbine in 1999, there have been 239 school shootings nationwide. 302 people have been injured, 144 people killed, and 228,000 children exposed to gun violence.

            I’ve said before that I thought things were going to change after what happened in Newtown.

            I still have a framed copy of the Daily News cover with the pictures of the beautiful children whose lives were taken that day and the headline “Shame on U.S.” for failing to pass the assault weapons ban.

            But things didn’t change because my Republican colleagues lacked the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association.

            I hope that can change now and that Senator McConnell will finally call up legislation to prevent more lives from being needlessly lost, including the lives of our children.

            In addition to reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban, we should be doing more. In particular, the Senate should immediately consider the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and universal background checks.

            Each of these bills should be part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent further shootings, and we must act quickly. To that end, I have introduced the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019.

            This bill would give grants to states to enact extreme-risk laws. These are laws that allow family members and law enforcement officers to get court orders to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

            Fifteen states and the District of Columbia already have extreme-risk laws on the books, and they work.

            San Diego has had particular success with California’s law. In a little more than a year, that office has obtained 126 orders and confiscated 318 guns, including 33 assault weapons.

            Earlier this year, I received a letter from the San Diego City Attorney. Here is an excerpt from that letter: “Our office has found California’s red flag law to be a powerful tool for protecting residents and police officers from senseless gun violence. Gun-rights advocates closely monitor our work; they have yet to bring to our attention a case where they believe the GVRO was improperly granted.”

            Simply put, extreme-risk laws protect due process and they save lives.

            Similarly, the Violence Against Women Act, which has already passed theHouse, addresses gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. It does this in three ways.

            First, the bill makes it a federal crime for someone under an ex parte domestic violence order to possess a firearm.  An ex parte hearing means that the abuser is not there, but there are still due process protections. The judge must still consider evidence, and the order itself is only temporary.

            These sorts of orders are only issued in the most dangerous situations, which is why it’s so important that we ensure these sorts of abusers cannot purchase or possess firearms while the order is in place.

            Second, it closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”  This is an important update to the law so that if someone is convicted of committing domestic violence against the person he or she is dating, they cannot possess firearms. These are situations where someone has already been convicted of committing an act of domestic violence.

            The presence of firearms in domestic violence situations raises the chance that someone will die by 500 percent. Preventing this is common sense.

            Third and finally, the House bill prohibits people convicted of stalking from possessing a firearm. Once again, this means someone has already been convicted in a court of repeatedly following and harassing someone else.

            For me, there is no question that domestic abusers should be barred from purchasing or possessing firearms. There was a recent article in the Washington Post titled, “The latest shooting attacks show how the U.S. stands apart from the world.”

            It ends with the line: “It may not be possible to completely replicate Australia’s success, but why there has been no effort even to try is a question that puts national lawmakers to shame.”

            I agree. It is far past time for my Republican colleagues to join me in passing commonsense gun reform. It is far past time to act and we are needlessly losing more lives every day to gun violence.”