It’s Time for a Serious Conversation About Gun Safety
Over the last few months, there’s been an ongoing conversation about our nation’s gun laws. That’s no surprise given the recent mass shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs and at a county government facility in San Bernardino, California. But these tragic acts of violence are not a new phenomenon. We’ve endured them far too many times. And sadly, Congress has failed to have a serious and clear-eyed discussion about how to improve gun safety and reduce the number of mass shootings that occur in America.
Personally, I refuse to accept the idea that we can’t do anything about gun violence. There are over 30,000 gun-related deaths in America every year and the rate of mass shootings in this country is far higher than any other developed nation. We must act.
To this end, President Obama recently proposed steps to improve gun safety that would in no way infringe on the legal rights of law-abiding gun owners. I believe that before it was even possible to read the President’s actual proposal, the Speaker of the House condemned it. The Speaker even went so far as to say that the President’s “words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.” That is irresponsible rhetoric and is largely an invention of the gun lobby – a group that’s become the master of political intimidation.
A dangerous strain of absolutism has been unleashed in Congress. Any proposal to improve gun safety is deceptively labeled as a slippery slope toward the universal confiscation of Americans’ firearms. These falsehoods – driven by a gun lobby that often profits after mass shootings – threaten the safety of our communities and the health of our democracy.
Most Americans want Congress to take action to reduce gun violence. Recent polling shows that 73 percent of voters support the President’s recent proposal to require anyone who sells a large number of guns per year to become a licensed gun dealer. In fact, this broad support includes 64 percent of gun owners. And there’s similar levels of support for universal background checks. But despite the public’s backing, Congress has failed to pass a single bill to help stem the tide of gun violence in our nation.
It’s time for Congress to prioritize public safety over the gun lobby’s political machine. We must pass commonsense solutions that can help reduce the number of mass shootings and gun deaths in our country. Universal background checks; new gun safety technology; limiting the availability of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines – these are reasonable measures that enjoy broad public support. All should be fully debated and given an up or down vote in Congress.
President Obama recently said “All of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.” I agree. We need to take back our government from special interests like the gun lobby. That’s why I’ve introduced the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) – which would create a system of citizen-funded elections that makes everyday Americans just as powerful as big-money donors. If Congress was more responsive to the public interest, not special interests, we could pass legislation to reduce gun violence in our country and make our communities safer.
Even still, as a nation we must strive for a more composed and constructive conversation about how we can improve gun safety in America. In Congress, I will continue pushing for practical solutions that keep firearms out of the hands of those who wish us harm. And with the support of the American public, it is my sincere hope that we can make progress possible.
Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District