Time to turn moments of silence into moments of action on gun violence
Over a year ago I used this space to talk about the killing of 49 innocents in Orlando. As we grieved for the victims, we also pushed for a debate in Congress and action to prevent gun violence.
As is typical with such a tragedy, there was a moment of silence on the House floor for the victims of Orlando. There is a growing sense that the only thing Congress can do on gun violence is “moments of silence.”
Democrats demanded more. We urged a vote on common sense gun safety measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. Sadly, our counterparts on the other side of the aisle blocked our efforts.
Led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who knows a little something about civil disobedience and making “good trouble,” Democrats staged a sit in on the House floor. We protested congressional inaction on the issue of gun violence.
Rather than have that message delivered, Republicans shut down the House of Representatives and the cameras to the chamber. Undaunted and using social media, Democrats were still able to broadcast our message around the world for hours.
Frustratingly, there was no legislative action taken to reduce incidents of gun violence and Orlando faded from the national debate.
That debate was re-ignited three weeks ago when another gunman using high-powered weaponry opened fire on a crowd enjoying an evening of country music.
What was supposed to be a peaceful and joyful night quickly turned to horror as high-caliber ammunition rained down upon them. In the shooting, 59 people were killed and more than 500 men, women, and children are undergoing treatment for injuries, many of them life threatening.
San Diego was not immune to the heartbreak of lost and shattered lives. Jennifer T. Irvine, a family law attorney, was shot and killed. Injured in the mass shooting were Tina Frost, George Sanchez, Zack Mesker, Jeffrey Koisher, Elizabeth Carvalho, and Fred Rowbotham, who is an agent with the Chula Vista Police Department.
There were also stories of hope and heroics. Taylor Winston of San Diego was attending the Route 91 concert when the shooting began. Looking to help the victims, Taylor commandeered one of the festival trucks. Making two trips to the hospital, he was able to drive dozens of critically injured to get care.
His is one of many stories that night of heroes saving lives. What did we do here in Congress in response to the mass shooting? We held a moment of silence.
Maybe this time we will turn a moment of silence into action.
We can start with one approach that is getting some early bipartisan support.
The Las Vegas shooter had 12 bump stocks attached to rifles in his hotel room, allowing him to fire 9 bullets per second during his 11-minute attack.
Bump stocks were also used in other mass shootings. It’s time we get rid of these devices.
I joined in introducing the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act that would ban bump stocks. Some Republicans are showing interest in banning these devices, but that doesn’t end the need for common sense changes.
Reinstating the assault weapons ban (are they needed for recreation uses?) and reducing the availability of large capacity magazines, limiting them to holding no more than 10 rounds, are measures that have been supported by a majority of Americans.
While the Las Vegas shooter passed a background check to get his guns, there are still glaring loopholes in our national background check system.
Every gun purchase – whether at a retail establishment, gun show, online, or between private citizens – should be subject to a background check. I have cosponsored legislation to close these loopholes.
It’s important to acknowledge why gun owners feel the need to possess guns and understand the concerns they have about protecting their families. Most owners are not automatically opposed to gun safety measures and engaging them on this issue can lead to safer communities throughout our country.
Every single life lost to gun violence should elicit sorrow and action. We have had too many moments of silence in Congress for mass shootings. The victims and their families certainly deserve our condolences, but they also deserve action.
First appeared in San Diego Uptown News