EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

May 7, 2013

Ayotte: I voted to improve background check system

Out of state special interests are running false ads attacking me and even lying about my efforts to prevent gun-related violence. I want to set the record straight: I support effective background checks and in fact voted recently to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

As a former prosecutor who served for five years as New Hampshire’s attorney general, I have a demonstrated record of punishing criminals and strengthening public safety. Having worked as a murder prosecutor, I’ve witnessed horrific crime scenes. I’ve spent time with victims — and I’ve worked day and night to put violent offenders behind bars.

From my experience working with police chiefs, detectives and prosecutors, I know how important it is to have laws that work – and I know how important it is to enforce the laws we have on the books.

Despite what the false attack ads say, I helped introduce and voted for the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which improves the existing background check system, addresses mental health gaps in the criminal justice system, boosts resources to improve school safety, and criminalizes gun trafficking and straw purchases. The legislation also puts teeth into the law by creating a high level federal task force to increase the prosecution of gun-related violence.

Also, given the clear connection between mental illness and mass violence tragedies at Newtown, Aurora and Virginia Tech, I cosponsored and voted for the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act. This bipartisan measure includes provisions of legislation I helped introduce that seeks to improve mental health first aid training and increase the effectiveness of mental health care across the nation. This amendment passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 95-2.

It’s clear that criminals who attempt to illegally purchase firearms aren’t being prosecuted as they should be — and have not been for years. For example, in 2010, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms screened 76,142 NICS denials. Of those, charges were brought in only 44 cases — and resulted in just 13 successful prosecutions. This sends the message to criminals that there won’t be any consequences when they try to get their hands on guns.

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