Unfinished Business

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mr. President, as the 112th Congress returns after the election, we should consider this important question: have we done our share to help prevent gun violence?  Statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence give a clear answer – no.   Almost 100,000 people die as the result of gun violence in America every single year.  This statistic includes 12,000 people who are murdered, 18,000 who commit suicide, and 20,000 under the age of twenty.   On average, 270 people are shot in the United States every single day.

Our society faces an epidemic of gun violence.  Consider stories that have gone largely unreported in recent months: near Chicago, a sixteen-year-old was shot twice in the head while riding in a car on her way home.  A staff member on a prominent university’s medical campus accidentally discharged his handgun at work and injured two people.  And on Election Day, a parolee in California walked into the plant where he worked, methodically murdered two of his coworkers, and wounded another two before shooting himself.

Stories like these flash across newspapers for a few days or weeks and then the national spotlight moves on.  But we cannot forget that while reporters may leave, the tragic effects of gun violence linger.  They forever alter the lives of good, talented young people, like Ashley Moser, who lost her six-year-old daughter in the horrific movie theater attack in Aurora, Colorado.  She’s partially paralyzed now, and faces significant health problems and medical bills.  But even after this nightmare, Congress did nothing to prevent guns from falling into the hands of would-be killers.

Congress has the power to act to prevent more of these tragedies.  We can take up and pass legislation like S.32, which would prohibit the purchase of the same types of high capacity magazines that allowed the shooter in Aurora to hurt so many people, so quickly.  We could enact S.35, the Gun Show Loophole Act of 2011, which would close the ‘gun show loophole’ by requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct a Brady criminal background check on prospective purchasers.  We could take up and pass S.34, the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011, which would close the ‘terror gap’ by authorizing the Attorney General to deny the transfer of a firearm when an FBI background check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a known or suspected terrorist.  These are common sense measures that would protect the American people by reducing firearm violence in our society.

Mr. President, it was over a month ago that a woman named Nina Gonzalez stood at the second presidential debate and asked President Obama and Governor Romney a simple question: what would they do to keep assault weapons out of the hands of criminals?   

So, as the 112th Congress returns, we have some important unfinished business.  There are few tasks before us more important than enacting measures that would help prevent tragedies like the ones occurring far too often around our nation.