Our latest response is from South Dakota's United States Senator John Thune. The fight is still on, so get your messages in over the weekend, so your Senators and Representatives have them waiting on Monday.
Thank you for contacting me about the debate surrounding Second Amendment rights. I appreciate hearing from you.
There is no doubt that we have witnessed great tragedy and violence in our nation with the devastating mass shootings that occurred in 2012. There is no place for this type of violence in our society. As we move forward, we will need to look for a better understanding of ways we can prevent such violent acts from happening in the future. In order to truly find a lasting solution, we need to look at what happened from all sides and every contributing factor.
On January 16, 2013, the President held a press conference to outline his plan to reduce gun violence, which included 23 executive actions and various legislative proposals. The executive orders included requiring federal agencies to provide relevant data to the background check system, improving ways for states to share information with the background check system, providing law enforcement and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations, and increasing mental health parity. They did not include any gun registry or gun ban laws.
However, the President called on Congress to pass various legislative proposals, including the reenactment of a federal assault weapons ban and limitation on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. While I agree that we must keep criminal and high-risk individuals from obtaining and using firearms, I strongly question the ability of weapon bans to prevent such individuals from acquiring firearms, especially since they are already banned from receiving or possessing firearms.
Rather than disarming law-abiding citizens and passing more restrictions, we should shift our focus on making the current restrictions more effective and efficient. Congress has passed laws that are aimed at preventing criminals and certain individuals from obtaining firearms. For example, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requires background checks for the purchase of firearms from licensed dealers and prohibits nine classes of persons from receiving or possessing firearms, including persons convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year, fugitives, persons that unlawfully use any controlled substance, and persons adjudicated as “mentally defective.”
A large portion of the debate surrounding mass shootings involves mental illness. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is the central clearinghouse that must be checked before a firearm can be transferred. While those adjudicated “mentally defective” are prohibited from receiving or purchasing firearms, only about half of all states forward records of persons adjudicated as mentally defective to the FBI. Reforming and modifying the NICS will help ensure that firearms will not get into the hands of those suffering from mental illness. As we look for solutions, we also need to look closely at our healthcare system and evaluate areas of improvement in order to help those suffering from mental illness.
We also need to have a serious discussion about safety in our schools. We need to identify ways to increase security in our schools and provide more counseling services to students. Our children deserve a safe place to learn and fulfill their educational goals.
This is a complex problem that deserves complex solutions. A great amount of emotion surrounds this debate and I hope logic and facts will guide our solutions. As we move forward as a nation to prevent such acts from happening in the future, I will listen to all sides and proposals with an open mind.
Thanks again for contacting me and sharing your thoughts. If you would like additional information on my activities in the Senate, please feel free to visit my website, Thune.Senate.Gov. Please keep in touch.
United States Senator
- Congresswoman Kristi Noem South Dakota At Large Congressional District Responds
- Max Baucus United States Senator from Montana Responds