By Sheila A. Bedi |
The collective heart of the nation was broken last month, when 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were gunned down in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Each year, 30,000 Americans die at the barrel of a gun, and 30,000 families suffer the loss of a loved one. We cannot prevent all of these deaths, but we can save many lives. We as Americans have the right to feel that our elected officials have done everything possible to prevent these tragedies. We have the right to feel safe in our communities.
If enacted, President Barack Obama's proposals will reduce this epidemic. The president's proposals would strengthen our currently abysmal federal gun laws in three crucial ways. First, a background check should precede any gun sale. Currently, guns are sold at gun shows, on street corners, and over the Internet with no questions asked. Background checks prevent convicted felons, domestic abusers and seriously mentally ill individuals from obtaining firearms, and should be universally required.
Secondly, the president seeks a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. These devices serve one purpose: to allow a shooter to spray a large number of bullets very quickly. They are not for hunting or self-defense. They increase the number of casualties in a shooting and do not belong in civilian hands.
Finally, Congress should make gun trafficking a federal crime. Gun traffickers exploit the differences in state laws and escape prosecution by buying guns in jurisdictions with fewer regulations and distributing them for profit in states with stronger regulations. Federal penalties should apply to gun traffickers, as they do to drug traffickers and money launderers.
Recent polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners, support these changes to the law, and for good reason. States that have stronger gun laws have fewer gun deaths. The only reason these proposals have not yet been adopted federally is because our elected officials have, for too long, pandered to gun manufacturers and the extremists that lobby on their behalf. These lobbyists do not represent the views of the American public—they don't even represent the views of most gun owners. Because of the recent mass shootings, the American public is more aware of this issue than ever, and is ready to hold legislators accountable unless strong laws are adopted to prevent further tragedies.
About Lindsay Nichols Staff Attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Danielle Baussan Associate Director for Government Affairs at the Center for American Progress.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner Cofounder and CEO of MomsRising
Erich Pratt Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America.