We need lawmakers to enact the people's will on gun control
An excellent perspective by Team 26 leader Monte Frank.
After Sandy Hook, there is a public consensus on gun safety measures like background checks. Congress, get some courage
Just two weeks ago, a gunman entered a school in Georgia with an AK-47and began shooting. An Australian baseball player was senselessly murdered in Oklahoma City. Elementary schools in Colorado hold drills where five-year-old kids hunker down behind tables while an "active shooter" knocks at the door. Just this week, Colorado voters ejected in recall elections two state senators who had sponsored new gun control laws in the wake of the Aurora cinema mass shooting. And the grim parade of gun violence in our cities marches on.
This madness must end – and it will when Congress stops ignoring the will of the American people and makes our nation and the entire world safer by passing common-sense and constitutional gun safety measures. The vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, agree on what needs to be done to cure our gun violence epidemic, which will not only save lives, but spare America from embarrassment in the world.
Australia's former deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, said last Friday:
They cannot expect not to have any criticism of it worldwide … I am angry because it is corrupting the world, this gun culture of the United States.
Indeed,the US has six times the gun death rate of other first world countries. This is not the America our founding fathers envisioned.
At our nation's birth on 4 July 1776, our founding fathers endowed Americans with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Those overarching rights are being eroded by the proliferation of gun violence.
Look no further than the elementary school down the road from me in Sandy Hook, and ask: is the desire to purchase any gun whatsoever without a background check more important than the life of a six-year-old child? Or 20 children and six teachers, for that matter? Is it more important than enacting a strong anti-trafficking law to shut down the "iron pipeline" into our cities? Does this desire justify trying to recall two state senators in Colorado who voted for background checks, high-capacity magazine limits, and restricting domestic violence offenders from purchasing guns? Most gun owners would say no. A loud minority says yes.
Let's ignore this vocal fringe group, some of whom openly advocate treason (in violation of article 3 section 3 of the constitution). Instead, Americans must come together to call for Congress to put politics aside and pass common-sense measures that the majority of Americans, including gun owners, support.
First, the gun safety movement is not about "grabbing" guns. We appreciate traditional American gun culture grounded in hunting and shooting sports. We are not looking to take away any guns except the military-style weapons that were covered by Senator Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons bill and high-capacity magazines.
These measures do not impact hunting and shooting sports. An AR-15 with a 30-round magazine is not necessary to kill a deer; it's a military-style weapon meant to kill many people quickly. It has consistently been the weapon of choice for mass shootings. It does not belong on our streets, in our schools, or in our movie theaters.
We literally dodged a bullet a couple weeks ago at an elementary school in Georgia. Will we be so fortunate the next time a mentally disabled person shows up at a school? What if it were your kid's school?
First, we need to ban military-style weapons and 30-round magazines, so that when the next unstable individual slips through the cracks in our healthcare system, their ability to access an assault weapon won't be easier than buying a beer.
Second, the measures being sought in Congress do not include a national gun registry. This should allay the fears of gun owners. The recent set of bills, which a majority in the Senate supported, expressly outlawed a national registry. Besides, the NRA already maintains a national gun owner registry.
Third, gun reform advocates are not seeking to eliminate or revise the second amendment. Just as the right to free speech under the first amendment is not unlimited under the constitution, reasonable restrictions on gun ownership are also constitutional. You can neither falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theater, nor carry a bazooka into one.
The US supreme court has made clear that the right "secured by the second amendment is not unlimited". The justices have determined that:
[T]he right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose … nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
The loud minority of gun rights proponents refuse to recognize these limitations on the second amendment. Ironically, in states like Missouri, they are also pushing "nullification" of the relatively weak federal gun control laws we do have – even though those efforts subvert the constitution itself.
Fourth, a federal anti-trafficking bill that includes real penalties for "straw buyers"is imperative, since firearms are being transported through many states. A strong bill will dry up the "iron pipeline", the supply of cheap and plentiful firearms into our cities.
Finally, universal background checks would help reduce the risk of a firearm ending up in the hands of a criminal, a person affected by mental illness, or a terrorist. Currently, under federal law, a person on our terrorist watchlist can buy the Bushmaster AR-15 – the weapon used at both the Sandy Hook elementary school and at the Aurora movie theater – in a private transaction, without any questions being asked.
Moreover, many gun owners want to know that if they sell their firearm, the buyer is not on the terrorist watchlist or is not a felon. For these and other reasons, the majority of gun owners support the enactment of universal background checks. We should demand that our elected officials support universal background checks and refuse to tolerate the pro-gun lobby's efforts to subvert those wishes because they want to sell more guns.
These are the common-sense measures being sought. They will save lives and help transform our nation into the one envisaged by its founders, of peace, hope and love.
Then, we could return our schools, neighborhoods and theaters to the safe havens of our childhoods. Since 14 December 2012, Americans have awoken to the gun violence epidemic, and are speaking out. New groups, such as the Newtown Action Alliance, Moms Demand, Team 26, Sandy Hook Promise, United Physicians of Newtown and others have united with older coalition members – from the country lanes of Newtown, to the college classrooms of Virginia Tech, and to the inner cities of Hartford, Newburgh, Baltimore and Chicago – to take back the US and to achieve greater gun safety.
This is the "Connecticut effect". We are silent no more.