We must lead the way on gun violence prevention

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Washington, March 23, 2018 | comments

Congress can prevent gun violence if we listen to our kids and put safety ahead of politics.

Aurora, Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas, and now Parkland. A growing list of cities and towns in America that have witnessed firsthand the unspeakable tragedy associated with gun violence.

After experiencing the death of seventeen of their classmates and teachers, the students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School said enough is enough.

In the month since the Parkland shooting, young agents of change have taken to the streets to demand action on preventing gun violence.

Their activism has spread across the nation to other students who are joining the chorus of voices.

They are taking their fear, their anger, and their passion to a different level. While their anger is coming through so is their desire for solutions.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with the Parkland students. I was struck with how measured they were about the reforms they were seeking.

They understood they weren't going to get everything but were very specific in what they wanted to achieve.

I also met with 10th graders at High Tech High Chula Vista where we discussed gun reform and school safety.

These students and their fellow students across the nation staged a walk out of their classes on March 14 to demand action on gun violence prevention. 

It was an inspiring scene to see students streaming out of their classrooms and engaging in their democracy through peaceful demonstrations.

I joined them in solidarity and I rallied with students from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in front of the Capitol Building.

I wish I could have been with students at home but my San Diego staff was out in force showing their support.

Our young people are succeeding where adults have failed. Their voices have been strong and steady and they are making a difference.

Florida just raised the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. 

California is poised to raise the minimum age to buy a long gun from 18 to 21. This would include rifles and shotguns. A person must be 21 to buy a handgun in our state.

California has always been a leader on gun safety. We must not let the federal government weaken California’s strong gun laws.

The Congress, unfortunately, has been unwilling to act on guns in a meaningful way. This issue is too political, the special interests too strong for some of my colleagues.

The House did pass legislation to help schools fund security measures, such as metal detectors.  It will also help train local law enforcement, educators, and students on violence prevention.

While I supported this effort, my concern is this will be a "one and done" approach when comprehensive reform is needed.

We are protecting schools from shooters but not stopping troubled people from becoming shooters.

There are a number of gun safety bills in the House I am cosponsoring that Congress needs to enact if we are going to see real reform.

Let's reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. There is no need to have weapons of war in our communities.

The assault weapon used in the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School would be covered under a ban.

Bump stocks allow semi-automatic weapons to behave like automatic weapons.

It was bump stocks that made the shooting in Las Vegas the deadliest in our nation's history with 58 people killed and 851 injured.

It's clear the sole purpose of bump stocks is to make weapons as deadly as possible.

It's also clear they don't belong on our streets. Let's ban them.

There are glaring loopholes in the national background check system.

In California, any gun owner who wants to engage in a private sale of a firearm must do it through a licensed gun dealer so a background check can be conducted.

This is not the case nationally. We need to create a truly universal background check system.

There is common ground no matter how you feel about guns. We can support the Second Amendment and still protect people. I am hopeful that if good sense can trump extremist views on this issue we can see some positive action on gun reform.

Because the statistics are alarming enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were more than 38,000 gun deaths (including suicides) in 2016. That would almost fill Petco Park.

We must push for gun reform to ensure the list of cities and towns in America experiencing gun violence and senseless deaths does not grow any longer.

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