November 02, 2021

The Time to End Gun Violence is Now

Bringing Republicans and Democrats together at this hyper-partisan moment to pass substantial legislation has been enormously challenging. But it is still possible.

In the House of Representatives, we have dealt with multiple crises in a bipartisan way, from hurricanes to wildfires to COVID-19. We are poised to pass the largest infrastructure investment in decades—also bipartisan. But we must remember the thousands of Americans we lose to gun violence each year will never drive on those restored bridges or board a plane in our renovated airports, and we must act on another critical bipartisan priority: stronger gun violence prevention laws.

These reforms are critical to saving lives and keeping our communities safe. They are also overwhelmingly supported by the American people.

Stronger background checks for gun sales have been favored by over 80 percent of Americans for decades. Polls show strong support even among the small subset of gun owners who are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In fact, in March of this year, polls found that 84 percent of voters supported background checks for all gun buyers. That number included 77 percent of Republicans, which was even more popular than COVID-19 relief at the time.

Gun violence happens everywhere. We need to deal with it in a bipartisan way, just as we do other crises.

If we have the bipartisan willpower for helping communities recover from Hurricane Ida and rebuilding after record-setting wildfires, why not for preventing victims of senseless violence and keeping children from needing mass shooting drills in their classrooms?

It's time for Congress to stop ignoring these calls, to stop ignoring the more than 40,000 gun deaths each year and move on bipartisan proposals that will make our communities safer.

In the days after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, we heard the all too familiar refrain: "It's too soon to talk about gun laws." Is it still too soon? The anniversary of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting is coming up. Because there's always an anniversary of a mass shooting coming up. We do not need an anniversary to talk about this issue—we need to be focusing on this issue every single day.

In March, 10 innocent people lost their lives while shopping for groceries in Boulder. It was barely a week before the national headlines shifted to the next tragedy. But for this community—as in every community shattered by gun violence before it—healing and recovery will take years.

We cannot simply move on to the next headline and grow numb to this crisis. Inaction is not an option.

Last year, the United States saw the highest gun death total in decades, and 2021 is on pace to exceed it. There have been over 450 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2021 and over 30,000 total deaths, more than half of them suicides. If we accept that gun violence is a daily tragedy, with homicides, injuries and police shootings disproportionately impacting young Black Americans, when is the right time to act?

The answer is: right now.

Yet Congress has failed to do the hard work of negotiating progress on this long-held priority for the American people.

Even after 17 Parkland teenagers and teachers were killed in their classroom, after 60 people were gunned down at a concert in Las Vegas and 27 first graders and educators were murdered in Sandy Hook, too many politicians remain rooted in ignorance and frozen in inaction.

Americans who have watched these tragedies play out on their television screens, and Americans who have lost loved ones, community members and colleagues, see that this is an epidemic that requires action.

We need Congress to finally come to terms with our failure. How have we ignored the thousands of survivors who tell us how their lives have shattered after gun violence?

Background checks wouldn't stop every gun death. And yet—Americans know we need them. They are the foundation of gun safety in America, and it's a foundation that we need to patch and repair, like so many crumbling bridges across the country. Then, we need to build on that newly secured foundation by passing legislation that will help us escape this horrific cycle and promote safe firearm ownership.

As the nation grieved the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, its student survivors urged us all, "Don't forget about Parkland." But that tragedy has faded from headlines over the past three and half years just like every other gun massacre that has etched in its community a lifelong, aching scar.

We shouldn't wait for the next mass tragedy to raise our awareness once more to the daily gun violence in America. We must act now.

By:  Reps. Joe Neguse and Ted Deutch
Source: Newsweek