Thirteen Ways to Fix Gun Laws — And Rahm Emanuel On How To Get Them Through Congress

Congress and the President can take at least thirteen meaningful steps to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP). The authors — Neera Tanden, Winnie Stachelberg, Arkadi Gerney, and Danielle Baussan — provide strong evidence supporting some of the legislative ideas already under consideration by the White House, including background checks on every gun sale and an assault weapons ban that also restricts the number of bullets in magazines. But the report’s authors go beyond that, proposing several ways the Congress and the President alone can reduce gun violence. Three examples:

1. Ban stalkers from buying guns. Currently, federal law only restricts people convicted of stalking “an intimate partner” from acquiring firearms. But many cases of stalking don’t involve one partner tracking another. As the report notes, “stalking is often the first step in an escalating pattern of criminal behavior that culminates in serious physical violence. Disarming an individual convicted of misdemeanor stalking may mean the difference between a victim who is put in fear for his or her life and one who loses it.”

2. Require states to provide information on gun sales to the feds. “The majority of states,” the authors note, “have failed to provide crucial records regarding disqualified purchasers to the federal government for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” They propose threatening to withhold Justice Assistance Grant money from states that don’t commit concretely to turning over their records to the FBI. President Obama can legally order this without Congress’ permission.

3. Punish gun trafficking. Gun traffickers often use a variety of complicated workarounds, including the use of individuals without criminal records (“straw purchasers”) to buy guns from stores that run background checks, to acquire guns and sell them to criminals. Traffickers today face relatively light penalties under federal law — usually zero to five years of jail time. The authors propose Congress pass a law like the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, which would ramp up the penalty for trafficking to 20+ years and impose steep fines on traffickers.


An event today at the CAP Action Fund, featuring Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House gun reform task force leader Mike Thompson (D-CA) and CAP President and report author Neera Tanden explored the feasibility of getting some of these proposals passed through Congress (watch it here). After the talk, Emanuel sat down with ThinkProgress exclusively to talk about how these common sense reforms could pass through Congress despite determined opposition from the National Rifle Association and some members of the GOP caucus. He focused on support for legislators in tough districts and starting legislation in the Senate to push the House to act:

[The NRA] is a very effective political special interest and they can’t just be rolled over. That just means you have to be all the smarter and you also do the other thing I suggested, that when you get stuff done, don’t forget your friends come election day…I want to start legislation in the Senate, so then you can create pressure on the House to move.

Watch the full interview: