This week, another mass shooting claimed the lives of 12 Americans. The alleged shooter was a disturbed individual with a record of gun crimes who was still able to purchase the shotgun he used to carry out his awful crime. As we mourn the loss of those innocent people who did nothing more than show up to work that day, we must ask ourselves the unavoidable question: What is it going to take? How many more Americans have to suffer tragedy due to gun violence before we take action to stop it?
While the national dialogue on gun control is often sharply divided, advocates on both sides agree that we could stop the violence if we enforced the laws we already have. We have entrusted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) with the monitoring of gun purchases and preventing them from the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. However, we have also shackled this agency with impossible burdens to overcome in order to carry out this critical task. This irresponsible act prevents the ATF from keeping us safe, and more and more we see the cost of this paid in American lives. The Washington Navy Yard shooting is just the latest in a long and tragic line of consequences for our hindering the ATF so severely.
In the United States, there are an estimated 300 million guns. That's a gun for every man, woman and child in the country. There are over 100,000 federally licensed guns dealers. Yet only 2,500 ATF agents and just 800 inspectors are tasked with monitoring dealers and enforcing our gun laws. Despite these limitations, the ATF is forbidden from delegating its duties to other agencies. Under the current restrictions, the ATF is able to review licensed firearms dealers just once every 10 years. Background checks are practically unenforceable because of the limitations on sharing data. Over 300,000 guns go missing each year. As the law currently stands, the ATF's faces insurmountable problems in trying to prevent further tragedies.
This week's shooting is another highlight of the unacceptable rise in gun violence in America. Those 12 victims join the 33 more that die every day because of gun violence that can be curtailed. Yet Congress still not only refuses to act, but hamstrings the very agency tasked with preventing further deaths. These are not statistics; these are American lives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, cut short because we handcuff the ATF for trying to do its job.
That is why I am fighting to pass the Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act. My bill does nothing to the millions of law-abiding American gun owners already enjoying their Second Amendment rights. What it does is remove the intolerable restrictions on the ATF. Every gun law we pass is useless without some ability to enforce it, and this legislation gives the ATF that ability.
At this critical time, we must re-open the dialogue on gun control. Now is the moment to take action and enact meaningful reform. The tools the ATF needs to prevent gun violence exist, but we're keeping them locked away. The Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act will free the lock. We must not let another national tragedy go unanswered. Those who cares about effective law enforcement should ask their Representative to support this legislation. No American should live in fear of going to work or sending their kids to school. Let's end the fear. Let's enforce existing gun laws.