NEW YORK –– Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements about the House of Representatives passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), passed in the House with a 55-vote margin, including votes from 3 Republicans. Yesterday, Senate Republicans failed to advance their watered-down version of police reform legislation, and should instead take up the Senate companion to the House George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, led by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).
“The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the product of decades of activism, and thousands of demonstrations demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans who have been killed by police,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “This bill is a strong step toward creating a system of accountability for all police officers, and we applaud the House of Representatives for passing it. Instead of pushing watered down measures that don’t come close to meeting the moment, Senate Republicans should join the House in passing this bill, or be condemned by history and voters alike.”
“This bill is a key step on a long journey toward reimagining police in our society, and ending the centuries of police violence Black people in the U.S. have suffered,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We applaud our leaders in the House of Representatives for taking this step, especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have been leading the fight for justice for a long time. Senate Republicans must now follow their lead and not settle for half measures.”
“This bill is long overdue, but it is a historic step toward finally creating an America where Black lives matter and Black people receive justice,” said Pastor Jackie Jackson, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network from Ohio. “Since the day my ancestors were stolen from Africa and brought to America, there have been little to no consequences in this country for killing Black people––especially for police officers. That’s why George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others are dead today. I applaud the House for getting it done, and I demand that Senate Republicans do the right thing and pass this bill instead of a watered-down version.”
This bill would take several necessary steps to address police brutality, racial profiling, and other fundamental problems in our law enforcement system. These critical measures include:
- Improving the use of force standard for federal officers so that force may be used only when absolutely necessary, and pressuring state and local actors to do the same (using federal grant money);
- Banning the use of chokeholds and carotid holds for federal officers, requiring federal officers to intervene when other officers use excessive force, and pressuring state and local actors to do the same;
- Requiring training for federal officers on de-escalation, implicit bias, and procedural justice, and pressuring state and local actors to do the same;
- Limiting the transfers of military-style equipment to state and local law enforcement;
- Creating a national police misconduct registry, with information about misconduct, discipline, and terminations;
- Empowering state attorneys general to investigate and intervene when local police departments have a pattern or practice of abuse and discrimination under federal law, and creating a grant program for independent state investigations;
- Updating the criminal police misconduct statute to make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers who kill civilians, and enabling people injured or killed by law enforcement to protect their constitutional rights in court;
- Require federal officers to wear body cameras, and require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to do the same;
- Collecting data on federal law enforcement actions, and pressuring state and local agencies to report use of force incidents to the federal government; and
- Creating anti-lynching provisions, including provisions that make it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing hate crimes laws.
The passage of this bill comes after several weeks of historic protests led by civil rights and racial justice organizations, organizers and advocates across the nation. The protests started after the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd was pinned down to the pavement — while handcuffed — outside of a market where employees had called police about a counterfeit bill. In many cases, the protests have been met with further incidents of police brutality across America.
George Floyd is one of several Black people who have died in recent weeks in incidents of racism and gun violence: among others, on February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men in Georgia while he was out on a run. There have also been multiple fatal police shootings: on June 12, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed while he ran away from police; on May 6, a 21-year-old Black man named Sean Reed was fatally shot by Indianapolis police; and on March 13, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville police. Breonna Taylor’s killers still have not been arrested.
As we mourn for the people whose stories have become well-known, we also know that there are countless similar stories that haven’t made the news. Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide and Black children and teens are 14 times more likely than their white peers to die by gun homicide. And according to Mapping Police Violence, Black Americans account for only 13 percent of the population but are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people.