Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Response from Sen Cantwell on My Email re Gun Control

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

Thank you for contacting me to express your views on gun ownership and violence prevention. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I support the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding Washingtonians who own guns. I also remain focused on addressing the deeply troubling violence in this country and making our state and our country as safe as possible for all people, including our most vulnerable citizens, our children. I believe both of these goals are important and can be simultaneously accomplished through common-sense gun violence prevention measures and the enforcement of existing laws.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (S. 649) on March 21, 2013. This proposed legislation included provisions to expand background checks for private and interstate firearms transfers and would have made it a federal crime to traffic in firearms. Additionally, the bill would have authorized funds for the Secure Our Schools grant program under the Department of Justice to help equip schools with safety features and resources, including surveillance equipment and hotlines for reporting potentially dangerous situations.  On April 11, 2013, by a vote of 68 to 33, the Senate voted to move forward with consideration of the bill before the full Senate. During debate over this bill, the Senate voted on several amendments regarding gun violence prevention.

On April 11, 2013, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced a bipartisanamendment to S. 649 to expand background checks to sales at gun shows and online sales. The amendment would have provided exemptions for background checks in the cases of private sales between family members and friends. On April 17, 2013, by a vote of 54 to 46, the amendment failed to attain the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate.  I voted in support of this amendment.

On April 17, 2013, the Senate also considered an amendment regarding assault weapons by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The amendment would have banned certain military-style, semi-automatic weapons, and make it illegal to produce, import, or sell magazines with capacity over ten rounds. The amendment failed by a vote of 40 to 60. I voted in support of this amendment to keep military-style weapons off the streets. 

On April 18, 2013, Senator Reid announced the Senate would put aside consideration of S. 649 to move forward with other legislative matters.   The Senate may take this bill up for consideration at a later date.

Along with addressing gun violence, making services for the mentally ill and their families more accessible will encourage those suffering from mental illness to seek needed care and support. While mental illness is not the cause of violent behavior, mental health care is a critical component of our healthcare system and an individual's overall health status. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in 17 Americans suffers from a seriously debilitating mental illness. I care deeply about mental health care and understand the important role access to behavioral health services plays in the lives of both those who suffer from mental illness and their family and loved ones.  This is why I voted in support of a bipartisan amendment introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) , the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013, which would improve upon existing mental health programs currently funded under the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.  This amendment included measures to help school officials recognize and identify mental health conditions and improve suicide prevention and behavioral care resources.  This amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 95-2.

Thank you for expressing your thoughts on this issue. Please be assured I will keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate continues to address this issue.

Maria Cantwell 
United States Senator 

For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at 

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