To: Interested Parties
From: Center for American Progress
Date: January 15, 2013
RE: Changing the Conversation: Preventing Violence, Not Gun Control
Since the gun massacre in Newtown, Connecticut just a month ago, more than 700 people have
been murdered with guns. That number increases by an average of 33 each day. This harsh
reality destroys families and communities but the fact is we can do something about it. We can
reduce gun violence by strengthening laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people
and keep our families safe.
Important reminders about gun violence prevention
1. This is not about gun control. It’s about preventing gun violence.
Every day, 33 Americans are murdered with guns. This is not about controlling guns; it’s
about stopping needless gun violence that devastates families and communities across our
country. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court made clear that law-abiding
citizens have a right to own a gun to hunt and protect their homes, but Justice Scalia’s majority
opinion also stated that the right to keep and bear arms is "not unlimited," and is not “a right to
keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
2. Support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the
hands of criminals and other dangerous people.
Personal freedom and public safety are not mutually exclusive but we need to prevent
dangerous people—criminals, seriously mentally ill and violent abusers—from getting guns.
According to a Mayors Against Illegal Guns May survey conducted by Republican pollster
Frank Luntz, 85 percent of all gun owners—and 87 percent of NRA members—agree that,
“Support for the 2nd Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the
hands of criminals.”
3. The gun lobby is standing in the way of common-sense gun laws – laws that gun
owners’ support – that will save lives.
NRA officials and lobbyists represent gun manufacturers, not gun owners—of course they
are pushing for more loopholes that weaken our gun laws and put more guns into the hands
of dangerous people. NRA leaders even believe that people on the Terrorist Watch List
should be able to purchase guns.
Reality check: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
In the Tucson shooting where Jared Loughner shot and killed 6 people, an armed civilian
almost shot the man who tackled and disarmed Loughner.
In the Columbine mass shooting, where 13 people were shot and killed, there was an
armed guard on duty.
At the Virginia Tech massacre, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people, despite an
armed police force on campus.
KEY FACT: 33 Americans are murdered by guns every single day.
Common-sense policies for gun violence prevention
1. Universal background checks are the only way to stop felons, domestic abusers, the
seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people from buying guns. Common-sense
solutions would require a criminal background check for every gun purchase and make sure
that federal databases are up to date.
Close the private sale loophole: Federal law only requires background checks from
licensed dealers. That means any dangerous person can find a “private seller” online or at
a gun show and buy any number of guns from them without a background check.
Get all records into the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
For the background system to work, all of the names of individuals who are prohibited
from owning firearms must be provided to the federal government for inclusion in the
database. Right now, millions of records of mentally ill, prohibited purchasers are
missing from the federal database due to lax reporting by states and federal agencies.
Fact: More than 6.6 million guns—40 percent of all gun sales—are sold each year by
unlicensed private sellers, without a background check required under federal law.
Polling: 82 percent of all gun owners—including 74 percent of NRA members—support
requiring a criminal background check for all gun purchases
Why we need to improve and strengthen federal background checks: In 2007 Seung Hui
Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. Cho shouldn’t have been able to purchase a gun
because a judge adjudicated him as mentally ill. He passed a background check because his
records were never submitted to the database. Right now, background databases are
dangerously out of date—19 states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records.
Why we need to close the private sale loophole: On October 18, a Wisconsin judge issued
a restraining order against Radcliff Haughton after his estranged wife told a judge she was
certain he would kill her. As a result, Haughton was forbidden from possessing or purchasing
a firearm. Yet just two days later, Haugton was able to purchase a .40 caliber handgun from a
private seller because he was not required to undergo a background check. The next day,
Haughton went to his wife’s workplace, a spa, gunned down her and two other women and
injured four others.
Why we need to end “straw purchases”: William Spengler, a convicted murderer, set a
trap for Webster, New York firefighters and shot and killed two and wounded three others
when they responded to the fire. His sister was also killed in the blaze. Spengler was not
legally allowed to own or purchase firearms, but a neighbor’s daughter acted as a “straw
buyer” and purchased a Bushmaster assault rifle, the gun used in the crime, and a shotgun on
2. The only purpose for military-type assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is for
criminals to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Restoring common-
sense assault weapon policies will save lives by getting these weapons off of our streets.
Pass a new, clear ban of assault weapons. Military-style assault weapons, capable of
firing more than 30 or more bullets in mere seconds, are legally available for purchase in
most U.S. states since a federal law banning the sale of such weapons expired in 2004.
Limit high-capacity magazines. Magazines with a capacity of more than 10 bullets
serve no legitimate purpose and pose a danger to law enforcement and public safety.
Fact: Assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines were used in at least one-third of
high-profile shootings in the last four years, including, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Tucson.
Polling: According to a December poll by CNN, 62 percent favor “a ban on the
manufacture, sale and possession of semi-automatic assault guns, such as the AK-47.”
Banning high-capacity magazines decreases the number of high-capacity magazines
recovered at crime scenes: A study by The Washington Post found that during the 10-year
federal ban of assault weapons the number of guns police recovered with high-capacity
magazines dropped to a low of 9 percent when the ban expired in 2004. That number jumped
to 20 percent just six years later.