Today at 10:00am ET, Everytown Will Participate in a House Oversight and Judiciary Hearing; WATCH HERE
WASHINGTON —Today at 10am ET, the House Oversight & Accountability Committee and House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing as many peddle gun lobby misinformation about the legality of common-sense gun safety laws and the federal law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing them, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). To help point out the crucial role that ATF plays, Everytown for Gun Safety’s Federal Legal Director, Rob Wilcox, will testify to the necessity and legality of these actions and in support of ATF’s work to keep Americans safe. Wilcox’s opening testimony as prepared is available below and the full testimony submitted for record is available here.
“The calls to defund, abolish, and eliminate ATF are more than misguided – they’re dangerous,,” said Rob Wilcox, Everytown for Gun Safety’s Federal Legal Director. “ATF should be funded, empowered, and supported because our gun violence epidemic requires strong and robust law enforcement and a whole-of-government response that ATF should, and must, play a large part in.”
The hearing comes as some gun extremists in the House continue to peddle dangerous lies and push a guns-everywhere agenda. Instead of allowing these lies and attacks to go unchecked, reporters should ask every member who attacks ATF’s work these four questions:
- Do you support Rep. Matt Gaetz’s “Abolish the ATF Act,” which would eliminate the federal law enforcement agency that is tasked with protecting the public from violent gun crime?
- If you oppose Rep. Gaetz’s “Abolish the ATF Act,” will you commit to funding ATF’s budget at current levels?
- If you oppose fully funding ATF’s budget at this year’s level, how much of the agency’s budget do you support defunding?
- What gun laws, if any, do these members of the committee think are constitutional?
Testimony of Rob Wilcox
March 23, 2023
Good morning, Chairs Fallon and Biggs, Ranking Members Bush and Jackson Lee, and distinguished members of these subcommittees.
My name is Rob Wilcox, and I’m the Federal Legal Director at Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization.
I truly appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning.
My professional work on gun policy and gun violence prevention is deeply informed by a number of personal experiences.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1980s and ’90s, where gun violence was not an uncommon occurrence.
At the same time, my father, who served in the Special Forces, taught us to respect firearms.
Hunting, sport shooting and responsible gun ownership were all part of growing up, and we kept our firearms locked securely in a gun safe.
Unfortunately, my family’s relationship with guns took a violent turn when my nineteen-year-old cousin Laura was shot and killed by someone who never should have had a firearm.
Laura had extraordinary talents, kindness, and spirit. She was an outstanding student, graduating as high school valedictorian, and was at the time of her death a sophomore at Haverford College and in the midst of her campaign for student body president.
But in January 2001, while Laura was home on winter break and filling in as the receptionist at the rural county behavioral health clinic, a client came in and opened fire.
He shot Laura four times at point-blank range, killing her instantly. When his rampage at the clinic and a nearby restaurant ended, three people lay dead, and three more were severely injured.
My aunt and uncle processed this tremendous loss while also fighting for a safer future for others. They became advocates who turned pain into progress, working to pass dozens of gun safety laws. And they are role models.
I’ve now spent 20 years working on law and policy around firearms.
One thing that I know for sure is that the ATF plays an essential role in keeping us safe by enforcing the laws on the books and partnering with state and local law enforcement.
ATF is one of our nation’s leading law enforcement agencies with 5,000 brave men and women doing work across the country in 25 field divisions and more than 200 local offices.
Its mission is clear: to protect the public from violent crime.
ATF works hand in hand with state and local law enforcement agencies to do its job.
ATF also regulates the gun industry through education and accountability – supporting those who want to do better and rooting out the law breakers.
ATF’s role uniquely enhances efforts to keep communities safe. For example:
From 2017 to 2021, ATF processed nearly 2 million crime gun traces and 1.5 million NIBIN cases to assist local law enforcement in linking crime scenes, developing leads to solve crimes, and identifying gun trafficking channels.
The crime gun traces showed that guns are moving faster than ever from dealer to crime scene — nearly half having a time-to-crime of under 3 years and 25 percent with a time-to-crime of under one year.
Guns with a short time-to-crime indicate trafficking and it’s where ATF and the gun industry can take action to step in and shut it down.
Like when a gun dealer was selling multiple guns to people he should have known were intending to break the law. The guns were traced to many crimes, including murders. ATF investigated, and the dealer, traffickers and shooters were all prosecuted.
The fact is that only ATF can make sure there is accountability from the shooter up through the supplier.
ATF protects and serves at a time when we need it to be at its strongest → fully funded and supported.
Because gun violence and violent crime are threatening communities across the country.
An epidemic exacerbated by rogue gun dealers, no background check gun sales, and industry innovations like arm braces, ghost guns, and bump stocks that make firearms more dangerous and try to exploit loopholes in the law.
ATF steps into that space to enforce the law and stop the illegal diversion of firearms.
It’s not lost on me that yesterday was the two-year mark of the shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado—where 10 people, including a law enforcement officer, were killed.
The shooter used a short-barreled Ruger AR-15 “pistol” that came equipped with a SB Tactical arm brace—the same kind of firearm ATF has now regulated.
ATF has been there—under Republican and Democratic administrations—to respond to these threats and enforce the law.
ATF’s mission is to protect the public from violent crime and stop gun trafficking.
In other words: it’s to save lives.
Keep illegal guns out of our communities and save the lives of concertgoers, the lives of supermarket shoppers, the lives of students—and so many others.
And that’s what ATF has done—using the tools and authorities granted to it by Congress.
I am thankful to the dedicated women and men who serve at ATF who do this work to prevent senseless tragedies and spare families from having to go through what mine—and so many others—have been through.
Thank you again for the invitation to be here. I look forward to your questions.