February 4, 2019- Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Congresswoman Katherine Clark will be attending President Trump’s State of the Union address with Malden constituent and student gun violence activist Angela Tejada-Soliz. Also, on Tuesday, Congresswoman Clark will reintroduce the Animal Violence Exposes Real Threat (AVERT) of Future Gun Violence Act, a step toward preventing gun violence by prohibiting individuals with a misdemeanor conviction for animal cruelty from possessing a firearm.

After years of complacency from House Republican leadership, House Democrats are putting gun safety reform at the top of their legislative agenda. After only two weeks into the new congressional session, the Democrats introduced H.R. 8, the Background Checks Act, and this week, the House Judiciary Committee will be hosting a hearing on the impact of gun violence. This is the first hearing on gun regulations in eight years.

“The inaction silently perpetuating gun violence has come to an end,” said Vice Chair Clark. “Thanks to the survivors, families and activists, like Angela, the House is now in a position to move forward commonsense reforms, like the AVERT Act. Lives have been lost, families have been destroyed, and communities have been torn apart by gun violence. The time for action is now.” 

Following the 2017 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Tejada-Soliz organized a student walkout at Malden High School as part of the National School Walkout Day that was a show of solidarity across the country.

“It’s easy to say, ‘it won’t happen here’, and I am sure the students in Florida felt the same way. But gun violence happens everywhere in this country because of the current gun laws. That’s why we organized a walkout in Malden. Young people are being affected and we can’t vote, but we can make our voices heard. We won’t stop speaking out until something changes.”

More on the AVERT ACT:

The AVERT Act seeks to close a loophole created in the prosecution of those convicted of animal cruelty. Current federal law prohibits individuals who have been convicted of a felony from possessing firearms. However, in many states, animal abuse is often prosecuted as a misdemeanor. As a result, individuals who have committed a violent crime that is predictive of future violence are still allowed to possess firearms. This used to be the case with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, another crime with a high risk of future violence. In 1996, Congress acted to close this dangerous loophole by prohibiting individuals with misdemeanor convictions from possessing a firearm. The AVERT Act seeks to accomplish the same objective.

“The greatest indicator of future violence is past violent behavior,” said Christian Heyne, Legislative Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “Cruelty toward and abuse of animals is often seen as a warning sign for domestic abuse and other violent behavior. The AVERT Future Gun Violence Act of 2018 identifies this warning sign and takes the important step of prohibiting the possession of a gun for someone convicted of animal abuse. We thank Representative Clark for her attention to this issue and fully support the passage of this bill.”

“We commend Rep. Clark for her leadership on animal protection issues, and we thank her for highlighting the link between animal cruelty and violence toward people,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “For years, the FBI has profiled mass shooters who had early incidences of animal cruelty which escalated to violent behavior towards humans. Cruelty in any form must be taken seriously and stopped. Law enforcement has long recognized this link, and this legislation would make communities safer by taking action to intervene early.” 

The American Psychological Association is also supporting the legislation.

According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) and Northeastern University, individuals who commit animal abuse are five times more likely to commit violence against people than individuals who do not abuse animals. In fact, nearly half of all perpetrators of school shootings between 1988 and 2012 engaged in some form of animal cruelty. On average, 70% of convicted animal abusers will commit another crime within 10 years and nearly 40% of those follow-on crimes will be violent. This link between animal abuse and future criminality is so strong that in 2016 the FBI amended the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to start collecting data specifically on animal abuse.

The full text of the bill can be found here.