Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate unanimously passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine to honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, as well as the first responders and city officials who have supported the Virginia Beach community in the wake of this tragedy.

“We’re grateful the Senate has passed this resolution to honor the lives of the 12 victims of the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach. We will continue to mourn this immense loss but we must turn our pain into action and enact commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence in our communities,” the Senators said.

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) led the entire bipartisan Virginia delegation in introducing a companion resolution in the House.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement regarding the deadly shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center:

"I am horrified by what has happened today in Virginia Beach. I am thankful to law enforcement for their swift and courageous response. My heart goes out to all the victims of today's senseless violence, their families, and the entire community that has been affected by these awful events. I will be praying for the swift recovery of those injured."

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WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored two bills aimed at protecting Virginians from gun violence through expanded background checks on gun sales and banning military-style assault weapons.

“We owe it to the victims and families affected by gun violence in communities across the Commonwealth and the nation to take a commonsense approach to prevent future tragedies,” said Sen. Warner. “While these bills won’t stop every mass shooting, they include much-needed and widely-supported steps to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands and will save lives.” 

The Background Checks Expansion Act will expand federal background checks to all gun sales. Under current federal law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. Ninety-seven percent of Americans support comprehensive background checks, but research indicates that as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check. The bill will extend the background check requirement to all unlicensed sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows, or out of their home, with commonsense exemptions for transfers between law enforcement officers, loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, and transfers between family members. Text for the bill is found here. 

The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 will ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The bill exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for used for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes while ending the sale of assault weapons and military-style firearms that have been used in several recent U.S. mass shootings, including the tragic events in Newton, CT, Parkland, FL and Las Vegas, NV. Recent polls have found that 67 percent of Americans support restricting sale of military style assault weapons. Text for the bill is found here.

Sen. Warner continues to advocate for commonsense steps to curb gun violence. Last year, Sen. Warner penned an op-ed outlining his support for an assault weapons ban to help curb gun violence while still respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 41 of their Democratic colleagues in a letter to Secretary DeVos condemning her reported plans to allow states and school districts to use federal funds to purchase firearms and firearm trainings for teachers and other school staff. The grants Secretary DeVos is considering using were created in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and are intended to keep students safe and healthy, provide a well-rounded education, and help school districts more effectively use education technology.

“This plan runs counter to the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act and will make our schools more dangerous, and our students less safe,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to abandon this proposal immediately, deny state and school district requests to use federal funds for this purpose, and instead work with us and other stakeholders to focus on other efforts that enhance student safety and prevent violence.” 

If Secretary DeVos goes through with this plan, the New York Times reports this would be the first time a federal agency authorized the purchase of weapons without a Congressional mandate. Just a few months ago, Congress once again reiterated this position by preventing federal funds from being used to purchase firearms or firearms training in the bipartisan Stop School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training program. 

“Students across the country deserve to learn in an environment that is safe and free of weapons. Introducing more guns into schools and classrooms is likely to lead to more, not less, violence. Reports of an unintentional firing in a classroom and even a gun being left in an elementary school bathroom illustrate the very real dangers to our children of arming teachers and other school staff,” continued the Senators. 

In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Nelson (D-FL), Schumer (D-NY), Murphy (D-CT), Blumenthal (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Markey (D-MA), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Jones (D-AL), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

 

Full text of the letter is below and PDF is HERE.

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos: 

We write to express our strong opposition to the Department’s reported plans to allow States and school districts to purchase firearms or firearms training for teachers and other school staff with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) funds.[1] This plan runs counter to the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and will make our schools more dangerous, and our students less safe. We urge you to abandon this proposal immediately, deny state and school district requests to use federal funds for this purpose, and instead work with us and other stakeholders to focus on other efforts that enhance student safety and prevent violence.

 

The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, authorized under Title IV-A of ESSA in 2015, provides funds to States and school districts for a range of activities intended to keep students safe and healthy, provide a well-rounded education, and help school districts more effectively use education technology. Congress never intended for these funds to be used to purchase weapons, or train teachers in how to use weapons in schools. In fact, Congress denounced the presence of firearms in schools in ESEA section 4102(5)(B), when it defined the term “drug and violence prevention” as a program that fosters “the creation and maintenance of a school environment free of weapons.”[2]

 

Within the realm of education, it is the Federal government’s longstanding position to prohibit federal funds from being used to purchase weapons. Just a few months ago, Congress reiterated that position with the bipartisan Stop School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training program, which ensures “No amounts provided as a grant under this part may be used for the provision to any person of a firearm or training in the use of a firearm.”[3]  According to the New York Times, your Department acknowledges that moving forward with this plan would be the first time a federal agency has authorized the purchase of weapons without Congressional mandate.[4] Establishing such a precedent would be dangerous and clearly against Congressional intent.

 

Educators already face the daunting task of educating our next generation. Teachers and other school staff should be focused on providing instruction, engaging families, and providing students with the skills and supports they need to succeed in the workforce and in life, not on managing and potentially responding to threats with deadly force. In fact, a recent poll showed that the overwhelming majority of educators do not want to be armed, and instead many believe social emotional learning, mental health supports, and increased wraparound services and funding are a more effective way to keep students safe.[5]

 

Students across the country deserve to learn in an environment that is safe and free of weapons. Introducing more guns into schools and classrooms is likely to lead to more, not less, violence. Reports of an unintentional firing in a classroom[6] and even a gun being left in an elementary school bathroom[7] illustrate the very real dangers to our children of arming teachers and other school staff.

 

Title IV-A provides the opportunity for states and school districts to tailor their programming to local needs and improve school safety and student learning. The Administration’s proposal to allow States and school districts to use federal ESEA funds to arm teachers and other school staff not only runs counter to Congressional intent and established federal precedent, but would take schools and communities backwards in pursuit of these goals. We urge you to disallow any State or local educational agency from using ESEA funds for these purchases and to work with Congress to ensure our students are healthy, safe, and well-supported.

 

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/us/politics/devos-guns-in-schools.html

[2] Elementary and Secondary Education Act, section 4102(5)(B) 

[3] H.R.1625 - Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/us/politics/devos-guns-in-schools.html

[5] https://teachplus.org/news-events/press-release/teachers-overwhelmingly-oppose-idea-arming-teachers-schools-new-national

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/03/14/teacher-accidentally-discharges-firearm-in-calif-classroom-he-was-trained-in-gun-use/

[7] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cops-teacher-left-gun-in-bathroom-elementary-kids-found-it/

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored a set of bipartisan bills to help curb gun violence, including the Fix NICS Act, legislation which would ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This bill penalizes federal agencies who fail to properly report relevant records and incentivizes states to improve their overall reporting. In addition, it directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and have always advocated for responsible gun ownership. My commitment to those principles remains, but it is also past time to put an end to these mass shootings,” said Sen. Warner. “While these commonsense reforms are not themselves enough, they will strengthen our background checks system and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent individuals and terrorists. No single law will end all gun violence, but we must begin attempting to address this crisis.”

The Fix NICS Act

  • Requires federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under current law—including measures to verify the accuracy of records.
  • Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.  
  • Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans.
  • Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS.
  • Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.

Sen. Warner is also a cosponsor of the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation to help keep guns from terrorist by preventing people who are on the “No Fly List” or the “Selectee List” from purchasing firearms.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to introduce the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, the sale of which have been significantly curtailed and strictly regulated for more than 30 years. This bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks, and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.

“Fully automatic machine guns have been strictly regulated since 1986 under President Reagan. This bill will fix an egregious loophole that was exploited by the Las Vegas shooter to cause unspeakable mayhem, killing dozens and injuring hundreds of innocent civilians,” said Sen. Warner. “This measure sends the message that we can honor and respect the second amendment while also ensuring people don’t skirt our laws to turn legally obtained firearms into weapons of war.” 

“We continue to suffer horrific mass shootings like the one we saw in Las Vegas this week -- in Virginia we know the unbearable pain they cause -- but Congress has remained unwilling to do anything to help stop them from happening again and again,” Kaine said. “This bill would help curb deadly gun violence by closing a dangerous loophole that allows someone to make a semi-automatic weapon even more dangerous. We need to take long overdue action on gun safety and quickly pass this bill that can save lives.”

Under the National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture, and transfer of automatic weapons are illegal. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories are able to be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire. Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock, or other similar device increases the semi-automatic rifle's rate of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. Legitimate accessories used by hunters would be exempt. The bill also contains exceptions for lawful possession of these devices by law enforcement and the government.

Senators joining Warner, Kaine, and Feinstein include Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Kaine, who was Governor of Virginia during the Virginia Tech mass shooting, and Warner have long supported improving mental health policy and passing commonsense measures to curb gun violence, including requiring background record checks prior to gun purchases and improving the number and accuracy of records submitted to the national background check system. 

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Sen. Warner Statement on Failed Gun Votes

Senate failed to advance two measures to close the terrorist gun loophole and expand background checks at gun shows

Jun 20 2016

“After the massacre in Orlando, my office was flooded with phone calls and emails from Virginians with one message for Congress: We don’t just want to hear thoughts and prayers on behalf of the victims – we want to see action to address gun violence."