“I read the news,” said Costello in an interview Thursday about the motives behind his support for the legislation. “I’ve always had a close relationship with the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, from when I was a (county) commissioner. I see a demonstrable need to close the gap in reporting.”
He said that the bill he and Rice put forward should pick up support from both sides of the aisle in the House.
“I think this bill is narrow enough and directed firmly at the issue” without going off on tangents,” he said. “It’s a targeted fix. Everyone thinks it is the sensible thing to do.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, some of the nation’s leading gun safety and domestic violence advocates — including Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, whose organization Americans for Responsible Actions is a leading proponent of gun safety laws — joined with the legislators to urge action on the bill.
“These kinds of records problems allow domestic abusers to pass background checks and obtain guns over 6,000 times, between 2006 and 2015,” said Kelly during the conference call. “These are people that should not be able to get a gun, and they get it anyway … And passing legislation that incentivizes states to upload complete domestic violence records into the background check system is critical to strengthening the system and preventing future tragedies.”
“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,” said Giffords in a release. “I urge my former colleagues to pass this bill and help make women and their families safer from domestic abusers with guns.”
In the 1990s, 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 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, according to a press release issued by Costello and Rice.
“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, said Costello in a press release.
“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 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.”
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. This 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.”