This Thursday, Valentine’s Day, will be the two month anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Since that tragic day, more than 1,763 Americans have been killed by gun violence (@GunDeaths). The debate over assault rifles has led me to reminisce about my own experience with these weapons–which I’ll admit is more than most–and the continued inaction of the U.S. Congress.
When I was in the army, we spent so much time with our assault rifles that we sang about dating them (“Used to date a beauty queen, now I date my M-16”). When I was in boot camp, I learned how to take it apart and put it back together, practically with my eyes closed. By the time I went to Iraq, I could shoot “expert.”
So it’s fair to say that I’m comfortable with guns. But I’ve also seen first hand what an assault weapon can do the human body and I can tell you this: there isn’t a civilian in America who needs one. And if you do want to use an assault weapon, join the Army. I promise you’ll get plenty of practice.
Short of that, assault weapons have no place in our society and they certainly have no place on our streets. That’s why an assault weapons ban–even stronger than the one that expired in 2004–is both necessary and logical.
Like I said, I’ve operated weapons as a soldier. Now I own a weapon, have a permit to carry and believe in the Second Amendment. But I honestly cannot read another story about kids no older than my daughter being killed by some lunatic with a gun he has no business carrying. Can we finally say: enough? As the president has said, “If there is even one life that can be saved, we have an obligation to try.”
Congress must finally take action on a comprehensive approach to the issue of gun violence. An assault weapons ban, limiting ammunition magazine capacity, strengthening background checks for gun purchasers and expanding mental health treatment options–are four commonsense solutions that are supported by the majority of gun owners and non-gun owners alike. What is so difficult about starting there?
The answer is pretty obvious: the extreme–and well-funded–gun lobby. Contrary to what politicians and NRA officials often suggest, Americans know reasonable plans to reduce gun-related violence are consistent with the right for individuals to own a firearm.
A majority of Americans now support the individual measures proposed by the president and the House Democrats. With respect to increasing background checks and expanding mental health programs, the majorities are overwhelming. Americans simply realize that our constitutional right to bear arms can coexist with efforts to make our communities safer from gun-related violence.
And there is also no denying the extent to which gun violence is a problem in this country. Violence continues to rage in many of our cities. The murder rate in Chicago, for instance, is more than double that of Mexico City. My own city of Philadelphia–where the vice president spoke recently on this issue–has witnessed 331 murders last year. The number has risen each of the past three years.
Sandy Hook was an unspeakable tragedy. As a father, the safety of my children literally keeps me up at night. There is nothing more important to me and there isn’t a close second. So I join mothers and fathers across the country when I say: I don’t want to hear any more excuses from anyone. Republicans. Democrats. I don’t care. It is time to put safety above politics and get this done.