FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT: Angelo Roefaro
October 23, 2015 202-380-5990
SCHUMER STANDS WITH MORE THAN 100 NYC METRO-IAF LEADERS TO PUSH LARGE GUN-PURCHASING FEDERAL AGENCIES, LIKE DOD AND DOJ, TO PRESSURE GUN MAKERS TO MAKE SAFER GUNS AND TO CEASE DISTRIBUTING VIA DEALERS WHO FAIL TO COMPLETE BACKGROUND CHECKS; U.S. GOVERNMENT--LARGEST GUN BUYER--MUST USE GUN CONTRACTS TO PROD GUN MAKERS TO STEM TIDE OF GUN VIOLENCE BY IMPROVING GUN SAFETY AND DISTRIBUTION PRACTICES
Schumer & Metro IAF—Nation’s Largest & Longest-Standing Network Of Local Faith & Community-Based Organizations—Say Federal Government and Other Top Gun Purchasers Can Do More To Stem Gun Violence; Fed Government’s Purchasing Power Must be Leveraged to Change Gun Makers’ Deadly Ways
U.S. Government Makes Up 25% of Gun Market; With DOD/Army Currently Considering Massive $580M Purchase of Small Arms, Now Is The Time To Rewrite Requirements For Federal Contracts
Schumer: By Raising The Standards On Which Gun Manufactures Can Do Business With The Federal Government, We Can Make America Safer
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, alongside leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF), LICAN and their “Do Not Sit Idly By” gun safety campaign, pushed a plan using the federal government’s leverage as a top purchaser of guns and ammunition to get gun makers to make improvements to their gun distribution and production practices, which contribute greatly to high rates of gun violence in communities across America.
“The massive purchasing power of federal agencies, like the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, can and should be used to hold gun makers accountable for a lack of gun safety and irresponsible gun distribution – and to change those practice for the better,” said Senator Schumer.
Schumer explained that the U.S. government, including the military and law enforcement agencies, makes up 25 percent of the gun market and, as the nation’s number one buyer of guns from major manufacturers, has leverage to change gun makers’ production and distribution practices in ways that can improve safety in American communities. In fact, Schumer and the Metro IAF pointed out, the Department of Defense is soliciting proposals from gun manufacturers for a $580 million contract to replace the current aging handgun models used by service members. Schumer explained that the federal government should use its significant leverage to garner vital information from gun makers and to prod them to improve gun safety features and their distribution practices.
“While I respect individual rights on this matter, gun violence in America is far too high and we must take sensible steps to reduce gun violence in all our communities. As the number one buyer of guns, the U.S. government should use its significant leverage to hold gun makers accountable for gun safety and gun distribution,” said Senator Schumer. “Our plan is a smart way to use the federal government’s market power to force gun makers to change and to improve the safety in neighborhoods. Our plan will push the gun makers to make smarter guns – innovations that make it harder for these weapons to be used in crimes – and we will push the gun makers not to distribute through dealers who are supplying guns to people who have not passed a background check. I pledge to work with my friends at Metro IAF and everyone across New York to do all I can to help address the scourge of gun violence in sensible ways.”
Specifically, Schumer is calling on the U.S. Army to amend its currently-open $580 million contract for small arms to include provisions that require bidders to supply information about what they are doing to produce so-called ‘smart guns,’ which are harder for criminals to access and use, and what they are doing to bring those guns to market. Further, Schumer is urging the Army to select a gun contractor that agrees to only sell on the civilian market to gun stores that require completed background checks. Senator Schumer will call on federal agencies to follow the example of the bi-partisan group of police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, county executives, and governors, organized by Metro IAF, by taking two sets of concrete actions: 1) Require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas. 2) Expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.
Further, to jump start better research and development of ‘smart gun’ technology and innovation, Schumer is pushing to triple funding to $6 million for Department of Justice to fund Gun Safety Technology grants. Currently, the National Institute of Justice conducts research on smart guns technology, however, Schumer said that even more needs to be done. This year, the National Institute of Justice received $2 million in DOJ grant funding and Schumer is asking that its federal DOJ funding be tripled. Schumer said that increased funding will help further develop technology that exclusively allows only an authorized user to fire a gun and deactivates when used by unauthorized users. Overall, Schumer explained that his plan will help get crime guns off our streets and help reduce gun violence.
“When it comes to sensible gun policy, the federal government has real market power, but it also has the power of example and it can show many other entities how to positively impact the behavior of the gun makers in ways that reduces violence -- without reducing anyone’s rights,” continued Schumer.
Schumer was joined by Rabbi Larry Sebert, Reverend Getty Cruz, Rabbi Stef Kolin, Reverend David K. Brawley, Reverend Gawain de Leeuw, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and leaders from Manhattan Today, South Bronx Churches, East Brooklyn Congregations, Westchester United, LI CAN and EQUAL.
“As the murder of Officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem shows, even New York City is awash in illegal guns,” said Reverend Getulio Cruz, pastor of Monte Sion Christian Church and a leader in Metro IAF. “It’s time for the leading gun manufacturers to sever ties with the nation’s most irresponsible gun dealers. And it’s time for the federal agencies that buy guns from those manufacturers to use their clout in the marketplace to demand that they do.”
“Senator Chuck Schumer has been a leader on guns throughout his career,” said Rabbi Larry Sebert, Senior Rabbi at Town and Village Synagogue. “As well as anyone in America, he knows the limits of what Congress can and will do. He knows, like all of us do, that gun sanity can’t wait for Congress. And he knows that the largest gun buyer in America certainly has a powerful voice in the firearms marketplace.”
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary McHugh,
I understand that the U.S. Army recently released a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new Modular Handgun System procurement competition requiring that proposals from interested contractors be submitted by January 28, 2016. I am writing today to urge the Army to amend the current RFP to include a deliverable requiring prospective contractors to include gun safety measures and distribution practices in their proposals.
The Army regularly purchases hundreds of thousands of guns to arm our forces. In fact, the federal government is the largest purchaser of guns in the country – purchasing more than twenty five percent of the guns and ammunition sold in the United States. The manufacturers who sell guns to the military are the same ones who sell guns to civilian men and women across the country through local dealers and sporting goods stores. Unfortunately, because of a loophole in the background check system, not all guns are sold with a completed background check. During the last five years, more than 15,000 guns were sold to prohibited purchasers with incomplete background checks. This dangerous loophole means that people such as the Charleston killer are able to legally purchase a gun despite past prohibitive behavior.
We know that even a fully functioning background check system cannot prevent all gun violence. We regularly see horrific accidents that could be prevented by smart gun technology, such as an 11 year old boy killing an 8 year old girl in Jefferson County, Tennessee earlier this month, hence the need for better innovations that make weapons workable only for the actual owner.
As a standard part of the Army’s procurement process, I understand you require firearm manufactures to submit proposals with specific deliverables. With this in mind, I urge the U.S. Army to include a deliverable in the current and future RFPs that would require gun manufacturers to agree to solely sell their guns in stores that require completed background checks prior to sale. In addition, I also respectfully request that the amended RFP require all participating bidders to lay out a plan for the development and sale of smart or childproof guns and accessories. The U.S. Army should do all it can to ensure that companies participating in small arms acquisition procurements are held accountable for their involvement in the civilian market, and are properly incentivized to promote smart gun technology and protections. Ideally, the RFP would require bidders on federal gun contracts to provide substantive answers to government queries about their distribution practices and safety technologies, and begin measuring their performance in these areas, and it would expand research and development on “smart guns” and other safety technologies and explore the law enforcement and military applications of these technologies.
There is no question that gun violence in America must be immediately addressed. Requiring manufacturers who participate in the procurement process to develop stronger gun safety measures will not improve public safety in the short term by closing background check loopholes, but lead to development of better protective technology for children and families.
Thank you for your attention to this issue and I look forward to hearing from you.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator