In times of tragedy, Americans unite in support of those affected. We seek solace in one another and identify ways we might make a difference, even from far away. In this equation of compassion, Americans also expect a similar call to action from their elected leaders. We expect government to do its job. Our hearts are broken for the dead and wounded following the shooting in Las Vegas. Similarly, we again are deeply distressed at the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by another hurricane. Hurricanes are not unpredictable; mass shootings are. A greater federal response is needed to both.
I visited Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Within two days of the earthquake, 8,000 U.S. troops were on the ground. That number more than doubled over the next two weeks. Puerto Rico – a U.S. territory – experienced no such influx of aid for the first two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall. Five days into the crisis President Trump, a rabid user of Twitter, tweeted about Puerto Rico for the first time since the storm made landfall. That followed a weekend of Administration silence, a weekend that he spent at his Bedminster, NJ golf club. Puerto Rico, an already economically challenged U.S. territory, faces a very difficult future. Its residents still struggle for basic necessities such as food, clean drinking water, and power. Puerto Ricans are fellow U.S. citizens and deserve the full support and power of federal assistance.
In Las Vegas, an ongoing investigation has revealed few answers so far. On Monday, President Trump reacted to the shooting rightly saying, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always had.” But when it comes to assault weapons, it shouldn’t take a mass murder to bring us all together. Americans deserve action. The federal government banned military-style semiautomatic assault weapons for 10 years beginning in 1994. Gun deaths from mass shootings fell during that time period. But Congress let that ban expire in 2004, rather than voting to extend it. We‘ve seen the consequences of that inaction. We‘re proud of the role we played in strengthening Massachusetts gun laws in 2014. In 2015, Massachusetts had the lowest gun death rate of any state in the country according to the Violence Policy Center. Our nation deserves the same protection.
Despite having a President who attempts to distract the nation’s attention from important issues, there is no distracting from the tragedies faced by Puerto Ricans and the victims in Las Vegas. He also cannot take away the fact that he has had no legislative accomplishments. Throughout history there has been a proven path to bring about change in Congress– bipartisanship. Congress must work together on both sides of the aisle to put an end to violence, provide support for our citizens and create a stronger, more united nation. Whether Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans and feel common pain when our people suffer. President Trump ended his remarks Monday by saying “we pray for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.” We join in this prayer, but also demand action so that our fellow citizens can live free of fear knowing that their federal government will be there for them.