Addressing Recent Acts of Violence Across the Country

July 21, 2016

Dear Friend,

Like you, I am extremely saddened by the terrible shootings that have recently occurred across our country. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

The searing events of the last few weeks have shaken Americans to their core. In the days ahead, we must open our hearts to one another and work together to reverse this dangerous cycle of violence. We must strive to find a new path of collaboration and trust between law enforcement personnel and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. Government cannot do it alone, but government has an important role to play in lifting up our communities and providing hope and opportunity to millions of Americans that today feel left out and left behind. A broad coalition of government, faith and community leaders can help to facilitate an honest dialogue around important issues that can make our country safer.

But many of the incidents of the last few weeks have also served as a wake-up call, encouraging many of you to contact me about the desperate need to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our country. While we can’t stop every mass shooting from occurring, there are meaningful steps we can take that would reduce the frequency of these tragedies. This includes requiring universal background checks, prohibiting gun sales to any person who appears on the terrorist watchlist, limiting high capacity ammunition clips and magazines, promoting smart gun safety technology, making it harder for dangerous individuals to acquire assault rifles and improving care for people with mental health issues. None of these measures would in any way threaten the Second Amendment rights of lawful and responsible gun owners.

A vast majority of Americans – including Democrats, Independents and Republicans – support these kinds of reforms. In fact, recent polling found that 92 percent of Americans – including a majority of gun owners -- support expanding universal background checks and that 85 percent of Americans want to prevent individuals on the terrorist watchlist from buying a gun. Law enforcement leadership has also called on Congress to enact these measures. But despite strong public support for gun safety, the Republican-led Congress – with its deep ties to the National Rifle Association and its dependency on the gun lobby for campaign contributions – refuses to act.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Senate Republicans voted down meaningful gun safety bills. And in the House of Representatives, Republican leadership refused to even allow a vote.

I am deeply frustrated with Congress’ inability to act on this important issue. And for that reason, I joined my Democratic colleagues on the House floor for an unprecedented, 26-hour sit-in. Together, we demanded that Republican leadership bring widely supported, commonsense gun safety measures up for a vote.

But rather than working to address our nation’s epidemic of gun violence, the House Speaker chose to ignore us and the majority of Americans who support gun safety reform. Instead, the Speaker rammed through an unrelated bill that would enrich his Wall Street backers. Then he adjourned Congress and skipped town for an extended recess period.

While I am deeply troubled by the course of these events, I remain committed to the fight for sensible gun safety reform and will continue to urge House Republican leadership to take action on this issue. Recently, I joined survivors of gun violence, families of victims, faith leaders, Baltimore officials and several Members of the Maryland Congressional delegation at Cathedral of the Incarnation, to continue the call for action.

Congressman Sarbanes speaks at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore to demand action on commonsense gun safety proposals.

I know that many Marylanders care deeply about gun safety, and that’s why I want to hear from you. I encourage you to take a short survey about which gun safety reforms you believe we, as a nation, should prioritize.

Let’s work together to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish us harm, let’s save lives, let’s listen to one another and let’s do everything we can to stop the cycle of violence that’s gripping our nation.


Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District