Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of which I am a senior member, held a hearing on preventing the loss of lives to illegal gun crime. In theory, this is a long overdue discussion for Congress, and the committee should be applauded. If only the hearing had served that purpose.
Unfortunately, this hearing focused solely on theft of government-owned weapons, and ignored the more than 230,000 privately-owned guns that are lost or stolen every year.
The United States has suffered too many tragedies due to gun violence followed by total inaction on the part of Congress to pass laws that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Whether it is the mass murder of 49 innocent Americans in an Orlando nightclub last month, the brutal murder of 26 children and teachers at their elementary school in Connecticut, or moviegoers being mowed down in Colorado, the GOP in Congress block any meaningful reforms. And this hearing was no different.
If the Committee's true goal was to examine how Congress can support law enforcement and prevent the loss of life from illegally obtained guns, it would have noted that stolen and lost federal firearms only represent a fraction of the problem. While it is critical that government-owned firearms are properly secured and accounted for, there is a much larger gun violence epidemic that we must confront and combat.
There are proposals before Congress right now that would help prevent illegal gun crime in a comprehensive way. One such measure is a bill I introduced, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2015, which would impose stronger penalties on straw purchasers who buy a gun on behalf a person who would not pass a background check. The bill would make gun trafficking a federal crime. This simple but important change would give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to stop the illegal movement and purchasing of guns across our country, but only if Congress acts. This is a common sense approach that law enforcement officials have specifically asked for to help them do their jobs and keep Americans safer.
In 2000, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms examined its gun trafficking investigations and reported that straw purchasing from federally licensed dealers was involved in nearly half of the investigations studied, and connected to more than 25,700 firearms. And trace data shows that just last year more than 72 percent of crime guns recovered in my home state of New York were trafficked in from elsewhere, including from states with weak gun laws as far away as Georgia and Florida.
Unfortunately, my bill that I first introduced in 2013, and that has strong bipartisan support, has yet to have even a hearing, let alone a vote. That makes no sense. Instead of holding gun-related hearings on topics that have little to do with widespread gun violence in this country, the GOP should be pursuing common sense gun safety measures that are constitutional, supported by law enforcement and effective at curbing gun violence. The solutions are out there. All we are asking for is a chance to have them considered.