Chairman Nadler Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on "An Unending Crisis: Essential Steps to Reducing Gun Violence and Mass Shootings"
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing on "An Unending Crisis: Essential Steps to Reducing Gun Violence and Mass Shootings:"
"I thank Chairwoman Jackson Lee for convening this hearing and I thank the witnesses for being here to inform this Committee on how we can develop additional solutions to promote firearm safety.
"For well over a year now, America has grappled with two public health crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and an epidemic of gun violence. No place is immune from the effects of gun violence, including our homes, our streets, our schools, and even our places of worship.
"The uncertainty of the pandemic has driven thousands of Americans to gun stores, with record numbers of first-time buyers bringing firearms into their homes.
"The FBI background check system has been overwhelmed by the demand, delaying investigations and resulting in potentially hundreds of thousands of people buying firearms without a completed background check.
"And while every nation has struggled with the effects of the pandemic, only one—the United States—has had such an accompanying surge of gun violence. Even before COVID-19, a country-to-country comparison of gun violence was shocking.
"A recent study in the American Journal of Medicine found that, compared to 29 other high-income countries, the gun-related murder rate in the United States is 25 times higher. Even when you adjust for population differences, Americans are disproportionately killed by gun violence.
"One of the critical differences, of course, is that other countries have stronger gun safety laws.
"The House has already passed two sensible firearm measures—Congressman Mike Thompson’s Bipartisan Background Check bill and Majority Whip Clyburn’s bill to help close the Charleston Loophole. The House has done its part; now it is time for Senate Republicans to allow these bills to pass so that they may become law.
"Today, I hope this panel will examine another reasonable measure to help prevent gun violence—Extreme Risk Protection Orders or ERPOs.
"These laws allow law enforcement and—depending on the jurisdiction—family members, health professionals, and school administrators to ask a court to prevent a person who is at risk of violence to self or to others from purchasing or possessing firearms.
"In ERPO hearings, law enforcement and family members provide evidence in an ex parte proceeding during which a neutral federal judge weighs whether a threat is imminent.
"Only if a finding of dangerousness is made, is a firearm owner temporarily deprived of their firearm.
"In California, one study found that extreme risk protection orders were issued in 21 instances where there was concern of a mass casualty event. These orders may have saved many lives.
"After Connecticut enacted an Extreme Risk Protection Order law the state saw a 14% reduction in its firearm suicide rate. Indiana saw a 7.5% reduction in suicides in the ten years after it enacted its ERPO law.
"The data supports the expansion of ERPOs. We must take up legislation on the federal level and pass it into law.
"Another item I hope the witnesses will discuss is 'ghost guns.' These weapons are kits that are up to 80% complete that can be finished at home. Sold as do-it-yourself projects, ghost guns do not currently have serial numbers or require a background check.
"Over the last three years, ghost guns have flooded the streets and now they are the plurality of guns involved in crimes in some jurisdictions. Because ghost guns do not have serial numbers, they are difficult to trace and make solving crime extremely challenging.
"The legislature in my home state of New York is in the midst of taking affirmative steps to address the proliferation of 'ghost guns.' Just this week the New York legislature is considering the 'Scott J Beigel Unfinished Receiver Act,' which would make it a felony to own or possess unfinished receivers or ghost guns.
"This legislation has already passed the State Senate, and the Governor is expected to sign it. I support this effort and I hope that Congress can quickly move to address on a federal level the dangers that ghost guns present.
"Another urgent issue that we must address is the deadly toll of assault-style weapons. These firearms are designed specifically for offensive operations―killing the most people in the shortest period of time possible―which is why they are the weapon of choice for those perpetrating the highest casualty mass shootings.
"The list goes on and on: Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, El Paso, Dayton, Sutherland Springs, Aurora, Orlando, Parkland and, most recently, Boulder.
"Hundreds of lives ended by individual shooters with assault weapons, with family and friends left to grieve and pick up the pieces.
"Victims of mass shootings and everyday gun violence alike have tried and failed to hold gunmakers and distributors accountable in court.
"But the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which was the top legislative priority of the corporate gun industry, has allowed the gun industry to evade fundamental civil justice and accountability at the expense of victims of gun violence.
"We must repeal PLCAA’s sweeping immunity from civil liability for the gun industry, which must be held to account for negligent conduct, defective products, and otherwise irresponsible behavior.
"As we consider these and other issues related to our crisis of gun violence, I thank the witnesses for coming today and again I express my gratitude to Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee for convening this hearing.
"I yield back the balance of my time."