I am writing to ask you to support The Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013 and to support whatever Senate legislation emerges that includes the strongest possible language requiring background checks on all firearms purchases.
While Louisiana has some of the most open firearms rules in the country, this state is one that leads the nation in violence committed by firearms. As a resident of New Orleans, violent crime is often on my mind and the minds of those closest to me. I find it shocking that up to 40% of the gun crimes in this area are committed by individuals who have been arrested previously for gun crimes. Additionally, when it comes to domestic violence in this state, it is difficult to keep guns out of the hands of repeat offenders, even in cases where authorities are aware that previous offenses or criminal records exist. Whatever is being done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and domestic abusers is not working in Louisiana.
While there are several enthusiastic lobbying groups who insist that “criminals will always find a way to get guns,” this does not mean we need to roll out the red carpet for them as we do in Louisiana. Right now, private sellers and vendors at gun shows are not required to run background checks on gun purchasers. And while it is nominally illegal for a seller to knowingly complete a transaction with a purchaser who is ineligible for firearms ownership, without the requirement of background checks, there is simply no way the seller has to know. This means that, right now in Louisiana, it is harder to register to vote or apply for a driver’s license than it is to purchase a firearm.
This has to change. Even if violent crime has diminished nationwide, we are facing an epidemic of firearms violence in Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans. On this issue, I stand with individuals like Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, and your own brother, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in taking this issue seriously and personally. Additionally, I stand with President Barack Obama on the majority of his proposals, and I hope you will join him with your support and your vote in the United States Senate.
I also know that it will be difficult for you, politically, to oppose those enthusiastic and well funded “gun-rights” lobbying groups in Louisiana. As a born and bred Southerner, I know the political power being wielded by those lobbying groups who would take advantage of our shared cultural heritage of hunting, sportsmanship, and family traditions of handing down firearms as heirlooms. Those lobbying groups – the NRA chief among them - do not speak for me and do not have my support. I find their arguments against the proposed firearms legislation hyperbolic, overwrought, and based more on fabrication and mischaracterization than any realistic estimation. During the latest national conversation, I have found the behavior of such groups to be disgusting and repugnant, worthy of little more than disdain.
My beliefs on that are formed because I have actually read the 2nd Amendment, current federal firearms laws, and related Supreme Court decisions. Chief among these is Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the District of Columbia vs. Heller decision (emphasis added):
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
Furthermore, any substantive reading of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 satisfies any concerns I have that universal background check requirements might be used to create a national firearms registry (although I would personally support a national registry for owners of assault weapons, as an outright ban appears politically impossible).
As a law abiding citizen who has passed several background checks for both employment and volunteering efforts, I fully support universal background checks for all firearms purchases because I know the only individuals that will be inconvenienced are citizens who are ineligible for firearms ownership or unscrupulous firearms sellers who would easily provide them with a way around the law.
Again, I ask you to use your voice and your vote to stand with the President and with the City of New Orleans on firearms legislation, so our nation, state, and city can do more to keep guns out of the hands of those who would do the most damage with them.
Thank you for your support.
Similar letters sent to: President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Congressman Cedric Richmond