Common Sense Gun Safety

 

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I am proud to have been given the Moms Demand Action - Gun Sense Candidate Distinction


As a gun owner for more than a decade, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment...

My husband and I own two .22 caliber target pistols and one target rifle, which we use for target shooting. However, I believe in common sense gun safety, especially since America is a proven outlier when it comes to gun deaths. I know that this is a thorny issue, but I don’t think that it’s a binary choice between outlawing guns and not enacting any gun safety regulations. I believe that we must have robust discussions to find the best solution to our significant gun problems, and I am sure that we can support the Second Amendment while doing more to make our communities safer.

The State of Gun Violence in America

While the US isn't a global outlier in terms of crime, we do have an astronomical amount of homicides compared to other industrialized countries. Why might this be the case? According to the Small Arms Survey, the US has the most guns per capita at 89 firearms per 100 people -- the next country on the list is Yemen, with 55. If we have more lethal weapons, it is more likely that heated arguments can end with deadly consequences, which happens in this country every single day. This intuitive idea is backed up by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, which has found that wherever there are more guns there is more homicide. In the US, assaults are 3x more likely to involve guns, and we have a gun homicide rate that is 25x higher than other developed countries, according to the American Journal of Medicine. It is imperative that we find effective solutions to these problems.

Republicans like Jim Jordan have argued for solutions like arming teachers and instituting national concealed-carry licenses, which is essentially nothing more than putting more guns into more hands. Research has shown that this increases the likelihood of catastrophe. I am committed to advocating for common-sense change that will actually make a difference in saving lives while not just restricting gun ownership for the sake of restricting it. I support extending background checks and waiting periods while strengthening the background check system, limiting the dissemination of high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, and ensuring that those who are legally able to purchase firearms receive the proper training to use them safely.

Background Checks and Waiting Periods

This is our first bit of common sense -- we need universal background checks and waiting periods. More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks, and 75% support a 30-day waiting period. It's worth waiting a few days to ensure that whoever is buying a gun is not a criminal and does not have potential criminal intent. Waiting periods are also believed to allow people to "cool down" and make it less likely to use guns to kill, without actually infringing on citizens’ rights to buy guns. A new, widely-praised study from Harvard University found that waiting periods reduce gun homicides by 17% and suicides by 11%, meaning that close to 1000 American lives could be saved each year if waiting periods were expanded to all states. Other studies have shown significant decreases in mortality in states where there are stronger background checks. These checks must be instituted regardless of where a gun is purchased, meaning that we need to close the gun show loophole. By enacting these reforms, we can vastly reduce the number of senseless gun deaths in our communities, without aversely affecting the rights of safe gun users.

High Capacity Magazines and Bump Stocks

Bump stocks, which can be outfitted to semi-automatic weapons and therefore allow them to fire at an almost fully-automatic capability, must be outlawed. Bump stocks were used in the tragic Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, and almost 80% of Americans support banning them. Some states have already moved to outlaw them.

Furthermore, high capacity magazines only serve to further amplify the deadly effects of shootings. Mother Jones has found that 50% of mass shootings involved guns with high capacity magazines, and a study conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that incidents with these weapons resulted in 135% more people shot and 57% more deaths than other shootings. This shouldn't be a surprise -- if a shooter can use more bullets at a time, they could cause much more harm before potentially being apprehended while reloading.

It's hard to imagine needing a high capacity magazine for home protection or hunting, but removing these deadly tools from the open market would go a long way towards preventing senseless slaughter. We can learn from states that have already instituted a ban on high capacity magazines -- they have 63% lower rates of mass shootings, according to an analysis by Boston University.

Improving the National Background Check System

We must have better enforcement of the existing National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Mandated since 1998, the system is managed by the FBI and is used to determine if a prospective gun buyer is ineligible to purchase or has a criminal record.

To be fully effective, prior offenses must be entered in the system. Dylann Roof would not have been able to obtain a gun if his narcotics charge was noted in the NICS. Similarly, Devin Kelley wouldn’t have been able to buy a gun if his domestic violence charges had been entered in the database. There must be uniformity in how charges are entered into the system so that mistakes like this cannot happen.

Earlier this year, Congress passed an Omnibus spending bill that included "Fix NICS" -- a proposal that give states financial incentives to submit convictions into the database. Jim Jordan did not vote to support Fix NICS because concealed-carry legislation that essentially created a national concealed-carry license wasn't included. The bill also clarified the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which had made it difficult for the CDC to pursue gun-violence research. Despite Jordan's 'no' vote, NICS is stronger and the CDC finally has the go-ahead to conduct important gun-violence studies. Even though the Omnibus bill passed, it is remarkable that Rep. Jordan consistently avoids taking even the smallest steps forward to prevent gun violence in America.

Required Training for Assault Weapons

The massacres over just the last few years show us that we need to increase regulations on AR-15 style firearms. These weapons have been used time and time again to kill large numbers of people. Simply put, it should not be easier to buy and use an assault rifle than it is to buy and drive a car. By requiring training and a strong background check, we can keep these weapons out of the hands of those who have no business handling a military style weapon, while also preserving access for those who are willing to go through a reasonable process to own them.

Restricting Gun Sales to the Mentally Ill

Last year, at the urging of the NRA, President Trump revoked a rule that required the Social Security Administration to report to the FBI records of people that were deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs — about 75,000 people. Surely people who are not mentally stable enough to manage their own money should not have access to a gun. While this may not have prevented the Parkland shooting, we need to be getting smarter about how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, not making it easier to obtain them.

Getting Dark Money out of Politics

While it's strange that this needs to be included in a policy memo on combating gun violence, it's clear that dark money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) has blocked these common sense measures from coming to fruition. We need to enact comprehensive campaign finance reform so that organizations like the NRA are not able to buy seats in Congress and have undue influence over our politics. What is bad for the bottom line of the gun industry cannot have more weight than the safety of our children and fellow citizens.