The accident that nearly took my life is a constant reminder of the damage guns can cause, even in what should be the safest of settings: a police department with well-trained officers. We must protect our communities from future gun-related tragedies by implementing meaningful reforms to our gun laws that will keep weapons out of the wrong hands.
There have been dozens of mass shootings in recent years. Survivors of gun violence and grieving family members deserve to be part of the discussion as we search for a comprehensive solution to this problem. In order to help give these Americans a voice, I led an effort with more than three dozen of my colleagues to invite someone impacted by gun violence as our guest to the President’s State of the Union address in February 2013. The sobering accounts of our guests, and the tens of thousands of gun deaths each year, make clear that these atrocities will continue without meaningful action to stop them.
Gun violence is not a simple problem that can be solved with a single law or regulation. However, by working together with leaders on both sides of the aisle, we can implement a comprehensive set of policies that respect the Second Amendment and will make our schools, neighborhoods, and communities safer. I serve on a congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which has solicited input from all perspectives on the issue and held public hearings in Washington to consider ways to reduce and prevent gun violence.
I support the task force’s recommendation to require background checks for the vast majority of gun purchases and strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database. We should also reinstate and strengthen a federal ban on assault weapons, some of which have been used in recent shootings. These have no more place on our streets than an Army Tank, and these sensible changes would in no way infringe on the legitimate rights of gun owners to bear arms for the purposes of self-defense or hunting.
I am also concerned that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence found that 1 percent of the nation’s licensed gun dealers are responsible for selling nearly 60 percent of guns traced to crime. The Brady Center further found that gun dealers “lost” at least 16 firearms every day, totaling more than 6,500 guns in a year. This is why I have proposed legislation to crack down on deadbeat gun dealers. H.R. 4356 aims to increase the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to inspect federal firearms licensees for compliance with recordkeeping requirements by increasing the allowable inspections per year from one to three. It also authorizes the Attorney General to suspend a dealer’s license and increase civil penalties for firearms violations.
Further, I am proud to be a co-sponsor of other important gun violence prevention legislation, such as the Fire Sale Loophole Closing Act, the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act, the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, and the Enforce Existing Gun Laws Act.
Unfortunately, Congress has continued to fail to take action on this vital issue of public health and safety, and the tragedies have continued. Shooting attacks in Charleston, SC; San Bernardino, CA; and Orlando, FL, have claimed dozens of lives and represent the face of domestic terrorism. In particular, the Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting by a single killer in United States history, prompted me to join my colleagues in an historic sit-in on the House floor demanding expanded background checks and that terrorism suspects not be allowed to purchase firearms.
One can, with time, come to terms with a single gun-related accident at a police station. However, mass killings and the shootings happening every day on our streets require a much different response. If not now, then when?