Rep. Costello & Rep. Rice Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Victims of Domestic Abuse
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) today introduced H.R. 4183, the Domestic Violence Records Reporting Improvement Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation to increase efforts to protect victims of domestic abuse and their families. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if an abuser has access to a firearm, and according to a government study published in 2016, approximately 6,700 firearms were transferred to prohibited domestic abusers since 2006 because of incomplete records reporting. Timely reporting of domestic violence information to appropriate government agencies and databases can help to mitigate these tragedies. Legislation introduced today by Reps. Costello and Rice would incentivize states to report these domestic violence records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and make grants more available to states to help them carry out this essential reporting.
In the 1990’s, Congress recognized the seriousness of domestic violence homicides by acting in a bipartisan manner to bar convicted domestic abusers from accessing firearms. Congress followed up on this effort by authorizing grant programs, known as the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and the NICS Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP), that provide states with federal funding to upload records into NICS. While states have made significant progress in recent years in the reporting of mental health records into NICS, there is still more work to do to ensure that states are also prioritizing the reporting of domestic violence records.
“I am committed to rededicating our efforts to encourage states to report domestic violence records to the appropriate government agencies, as this critical information could result in saved lives,” said Rep. Ryan Costello. “Our background check system is only as strong as it is comprehensive, and this legislation will help keep our communities safe by making sure officials have the tools and resources they need to report the information that makes these records complete.”
“When domestic abusers can easily buy guns, their partners too often end up dead – that’s what happens when our background check system lacks complete, up-to-date domestic violence records from every state in the country,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “Our bipartisan bill creates common-sense incentives for states to improve their reporting of domestic violence records so that we can enforce the law, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and save lives. New York has been a national leader when it comes to reporting domestic violence records, and this bill will help ensure that every state in the country approaches this problem with the same level of commitment.”
The legislation has received support from multiple advocacy organizations working to end domestic violence:
“Those of us who work with survivors know that there are factors that indicate a likelihood for fatal violence,said Mary Kay Bernosky, Chief Executive Officer of Safe Berks. “Rep. Costello’s bill allows law enforcement to accurately record these factors and use them to keep firearms out of the hands of those most likely to use them to kill a partner or spouse. We need to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to keep families safe.”
“Domestic violence and firearms violence are a lethal combination. That’s why domestic abusers should not be able to easily access firearms. Our elected leaders must step up and close loopholes in our laws to enhance the safety of women, families and our communities,” said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Founder of Giffords. “I applaud Congressman Ryan Costello and Congresswoman Kathleen Rice for putting forward a bipartisan piece of legislation that requires states to fully upload domestic violence records into the background check system. I urge my former colleagues to pass this bill and help make women and their families safer from domestic abusers with guns.”
“As someone who was shot three times by my abuser -- twice in the head, and left to die -- I’ve know how dangerous guns can be in the hands of abusers,” said Ruth Glenn, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “I applaud Representative Costello for having the courage to introduce this bill, which will help strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and prevent other women from experiencing the same pain that I, and countless other women, have experienced.”
“In our 2014 survey on firearms and domestic violence, 67 percent of participants shared that they believed their abusive partner was capable of killing them, and 22 percent said their abusive partner had threatened to use a gun,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “We need our elected officials to pass the Costello Bill, which would close blatant gaps in the existing laws and the background check system that put victims of domestic violence and their families at serious risk.”
“We are delighted that Representative Costello is taking this important step to prevent domestic violence in our communities. This bill will make more grants available to states to help ensure the criminal records of domestic abusers are in the law enforcement background check system,” said Kim Gandy, President & CEO, the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Domestic violence isn’t inevitable. Ensuring that abusers don’t have access to guns is a crucial step to prevent further abuse and even murder. All of our advocacy work to combat this crisis must be supported with legislation, like this bill, that will help strengthen the system and better protect victims and survivors.”