Victims and First Responders Call for Legislation to Combat Gun Trafficking at Bipartisan House Forum
Washington, DC – Today, victims of gun trafficking crimes and law enforcement officials charged with combating them shared personal stories and urged Congress to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals at a bipartisan House forum convened by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Scott Rigell (R-Virginia), and Carolyn Maloney (D-New York).
“Today’s forum put a human face on the brave men and women who fight senseless gun violence and the victims of devastating gun trafficking crimes,” said Cummings, Rigell, and Maloney in a joint statement. “We owe it to these victims and law enforcement officials to act now to pass our bipartisan legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and send it directly to the President’s desk.”
The forum, “Victims and First Responders: The Critical Need for Gun Trafficking Legislation,” featured Theodore Scardino, a firefighter from West Webster, NY, who was shot multiple times on Christmas Eve by a convicted felon whose neighbor bought him guns. Scardino, who was one of four firefighters shot that night, described how he lost two of his colleagues and lay in the road for an hour and a half before a rescue team saved him: “As I was running, I could hear bullets hitting the truck, and when I got to the back of the truck, I was hit in the back. I fell to the ground and crawled under the truck. I quickly assessed my condition and felt I could survive this if I played dead under the truck until the police arrived. As I laid there in fear, I wondered if I would ever see my family again, would I be shot again, what would happen next.” Scardino played this emergency call placed by fellow firefighter Joe Hofstetter as they were ambushed by the gunman. Watch Scardino give his statement at today’s forum here.
Members also heard from Plymouth Police Chief Joseph Lawrence, the supervisor of Police Officer Brad Fox, who was killed by a convicted felon who obtained firearms from a straw purchaser. Chief Lawrence described 34-year-old Fox as a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who left behind a pregnant wife and daughter. “This was a senseless act committed not by just one murderer but by two,” said Lawrence, referring to Fox’s killer – a convicted felon – and the straw purchaser who provided the shooter with seven handguns and two rifles.
San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr described a gun trafficking ring in which a convicted felon recruited his girlfriend and her father to buy more than 100 guns in Atlanta and ship them to California. The guns ended up in the hands of a juvenile, an armed robbery suspect on parole, a convicted felon, and multiple drug traffickers. “The consequence of straw sales of firearms in San Francisco can be seen in the constant recovery of firearms in criminal and non-criminal cases where the record of ownership is not to the person found with the firearm,” said Suhr.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner and President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association Charles Ramsey also appeared, telling Members, “Straw purchasing is a national problem pervading every major city in America. This ‘free pass’ to buy guns is used by gangs, local drug dealers and transnational gangs and cartels. We are here today to sound a call to action.”
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys President David LaBahn echoed these concerns, warning that “although more states are beginning to address the issue of gun trafficking and straw purchases, without a dedicated federal statute, offenders will continue to find loopholes and firearms will end up in the hands of dangerous individuals without anyone being held accountable.”
The hosts of the forum are original co-sponsors of H.R. 452, The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013, which would make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for straw purchasers who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. The legislation has been endorsed by law enforcement officials from across the country.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted similar gun trafficking legislation on a bipartisan basis.