Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman John Sarbanes (3rd District of Maryland)
June 24, 2022
This week, a bipartisan group of Senators announced common sense legislation to help stem the tide of gun violence in this country. I’m pleased this legislation, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, would:
- Strengthen background checks for buyers under the age of 21: This legislation would enhance the existing background check process for buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 by ensuring review of juvenile and mental health records and providing additional time for review in certain circumstances.
- Crack down on gun trafficking: To combat illegal gun purchases and transfers, this legislation would create new federal offenses for gun trafficking and the use of “straw purchasers.”
- Support state “red flag” laws: This legislation would allocate $750 million to help states develop and administer “red flag” laws, which allow family members or law enforcement to petition courts to temporarily remove access to firearms for those who demonstrate they may pose a harm to themselves or others.
- Close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent gun sales to domestic violence abusers: While existing law prevents convicted domestic violence abusers from purchasing firearms if they have been married to, lived with or had a child with the victim, current provisions do not apply to convicted abusers in dating relationships. This legislation would extend existing law to also cover partners who have been in serious dating relationships.
- Invest in community safety initiatives: This bill provides over $250 million for anti-violence programs and school safety initiatives, which are instrumental in utilizing proven, effective public health approaches to reducing gun violence.
- Fund mental health services: This legislation would expand community mental health services for children and families, including through a $500 million investment in school-based mental health services at school-based health centers and other providers.
While this legislation will not end the scourge of gun violence, it enhances our ability to save lives and prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who wish to do harm.
Moving forward, we must treat gun violence as a public health issue. I held an information session with Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association and former Maryland Secretary of Health, to discuss how using a public health framework can help us better understand gun violence and identify its root causes.
We must continue to deliver action – not words – to show we are not powerless to fight gun violence.
Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District