In the last 35 days our nation has seen two of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Political leaders offer their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, their families and friends. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their condolences, but the killings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs were committed in a house of worship. The victims were there to pray. While we mourn the victims, we’re compelled to point out that our prayers won’t return the dead, our prayers won’t erase the memories of the survivors, churchgoers who no doubt witnessed horror that will remain with them the rest of their lives. This small, close-knit town lost almost five percent of its residents at Sunday Mass.
Republican elected officials, in particular, reject immediate calls to action. The talking points have been distributed– it’s too soon to talk about gun control; we need to let these families mourn.
The New York Times November 6, 2017 editorial “It’s Not Too Soon to Debate Gun Control” offers a forceful, graphical rebuttal to this claim. While we are within days of the killings in Texas, we are 36 days removed from the Las Vegas shooting, 513 days removed the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, and 1,789 days removed from the slaughter of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. If new horrors await us regularly, “it’s too soon” can always apply. The claim is hollow. The memory of the victims should demand that we act.
This Fall, Republicans in Congress are attempting to fast-track a tax plan that rearranges the entire economy and skews cuts to corporations and the wealthy. President Trump, Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan declared that Congress must act before the end of the year, tax cuts are so important. But 40 days after more than 500 were wounded or killed in Las Vegas, and only days after more than two dozen were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, there is no urgency—in fact there is no effort at all by President Trump, the Senate Leader, or the House Speaker to address the prevalence of military-grade assault weapons in the United States and the horror for which those tools of death are responsible. Let’s be clear, the time isn’t “right” for gun legislation, it is tragically overdue. To think that partisanship, and fear of the NRA, would be more important than the obligation of elected officials to ensure the basic safety of our citizens is simply unforgivable to me as a former public official.
According to a 2016 study, states with stricter gun laws see fewer gun-related deaths. I am proud to say that Massachusetts is leading the way in gun control—the first state to introduce and pass a law banning the sale of bump stocks, the accessory used by the Las Vegas shooter that allowed him to shoot more than 500 people in a matter of minutes. The effort was introduced by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre but was met with bi-partisan support and ultimately signed into law by the Baker administration on November 3rd. Fully automatic assault weapons have been banned in the United States since 1935. Many semi-automatic assault rifles, including the the AR-15, were banned from 1994-2004, but in 2004 Congress allowed that law to expire. The AR-15 is manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Since 2004, an AR-15 was used by mass murderers in Sutherland Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub, in San Bernadino, in Sandy Hook, and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. When is it not “too soon”?
Congress should take its lead from the bipartisan approach of effective and thoughtful leadership on gun control in MA. Inaction can no longer be an option.
A few years back I gave a speech in Denver, Colorado where I was asked about my stance on gun control. As a Democrat I feared what reaction the crowd would have to my response. The goal of gun control laws is not to strip individuals of their 2nd Amendment Rights. Individuals are welcome to own and house guns as well as use them for appropriate uses, hunting, skeet and target shooting. No, the goal of gun control is centered on the safety and protection of all. As I finished my statement I braced myself but was pleasantly surprised when I was met with applause. While the 2nd Amendment is a right given to individuals, no one can argue that we also have a right to safety and a feeling of security. By failing to act, Congress leaves the citizens of the United States vulnerable to future attacks. Legislative action is necessary and it must begin today.