Congresswoman Maloney proposes new gun safety bills on Parkland anniversary

Carolyn Maloney leads a hearing about coronavirus preparedness and response in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Chairwoman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) leads a hearing about coronavirus preparedness and response on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 12, 2020.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Michael Rock

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney today introduced a legislative package to improve gun safety standards to mark Sunday’s third anniversary of the shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School.

On  Feb. 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, then 19, killed 17 students and teachers and non-fatally injured seventeen others at the school.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough. In fact, they are meaningless if not backed up by doing the work to affect real change,” said Maloney Wednesday in a Zoom press conference announcing the legislation. “In 2020, we lost more than 40,000 Americans to gun violence. In 2021, we’ve already seen more than 4,000 gun violence deaths, and it’s only February 10.”

The package contains five bills. The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act would make unpermitted buying or selling of firearms a felony rather than a misdemeanor charge. The Handgun Trigger Safety Act would promote the use of smart gun technology so that only authorized owners can fire it. The Firearms Risk Protection Act would require gun owners to purchase insurance as car owners do. The other bills in the package would close the gun show loophole and require the FBI to keep track of all background check information for up to ninety days after approval.

Several anti-gun violence advocates joined Maloney at the press conference, including Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was among the fatalities in Parkland. He called for the problem to be treated as a public health issue, and expressed hope that the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) recent legal troubles and Democratic control of the Senate and White House would finally allow such bills to pass.

“The former administration unleashed a gun surge on this country during the COVID pandemic that we are all now gonna have to deal with the consequences of for years to come,” he said. “We saw…that person yelling `we need 30,000 guns!’ during the hearing yesterday. That should have put an end to the Second Amendment lie for every American. This was never about defending it for the other side, this was about doing nothing about access to weapons so they can keep acquiring them and do with them as they please.”

Kris Brown, the President of Brady United, noted that while New York has some of the strictest gun safety laws in the country, the lack of similar regulations at the federal level undermines their effectiveness. 

“Guns don’t magically appear in communities that are disproportionately impacted, they frequently originate outside of those communities, and they impact most often communities of color,” she said.  “Weak gun laws in some states put all states at risk.”

Jay Walker, an organizer and founding member of Gays Against Guns, called for a “serious reckoning” as such legislation went through. 

“What we’ve seen from the pandemic continuing through George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, and continuing onto the Capitol insurrection is the extraordinary connection between the issues surrounding white supremacist violence, militia movements, and police violence against communities of color and how they all connect to the overwhelming presence of guns in our society,” he said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version noted that Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey had co-sponsored the five-bill package. According to Maloney’s office, he has not sponsored these bills; he introduced last week the Gun Violence Research Prevention Act. We regret the error and any confusion which may have resulted.