It’s Long Past Time to Act on Gun Control
In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, after more precious lives were stolen, I struggled a little to find appropriate words. As a nation, we have experienced so many of these mass murders, in churches and theatres, at concerts and nightclubs, that the “thoughts and prayers” we all offer start to lose their meaning. They seem hollow — like something one says because lack of action is the real problem and everybody knows it.
With each tragedy, my heart breaks a little more for the loved ones left behind. But my anger grows too with each new senseless loss. Reasonable people accept the reality that there is no magic wand we can wave to prevent every gun death. I accept that there is no law Congress can pass that will keep a gun out of the hands of every person who shouldn’t have one. But that doesn’t mean Congress should do nothing.
If Congress treated every issue as they have gun control, nothing would ever get done. There would be no health care reform, no road systems, no education, and the federal government would shut down. That is of course absurd. When it comes to gun control, too many so-called leaders refuse to accept any progress. Instead, they throw up their hands and say we can’t stop all tragedies. Bump stocks are a good example of this. Even President Trump says these devices should not be readily available. Yet months after the massacre in Las Vegas where the shooter used a bump stock, these devices are still easily bought online. This is unconscionable.
In the aftermath of Parkland, the national debate over gun control has started to feel different. Student activists have begun raising their voices demanding change. Young women and men from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are leading the way as students all across the country stand up and insist that their elected officials take action. Last week in Somerville, over 200 high school students walked out of their classrooms to protest the paralysis on gun control. I talked with some of these students, who spoke with authority and conviction about what they are working to achieve.
This time, I have real hope that finally, common-sense gun control will land on the president’s desk. I think Capitol Hill will get there in large part because of determined students everywhere. I know I am fighting even harder to strengthen gun laws. Here are some of the measures I am advancing. Let’s start by renewing the assault weapons ban. I flatly reject the argument that an assault weapon should be available to civilians. No one needs a gun that powerful to hunt or protect themselves. Bump stocks, which essentially modify a gun to make it easier to fire multiple rounds, must be outlawed.
A person must be 21 to legally buy a beer. Most companies require licensed drivers to be 21 in order to rent a car. The minimum age to buy a gun should be raised to 21. There should be a waiting period before a gun purchase is finalized. In California, the waiting period is 10 days. This isn’t a magic number but it’s a good place to start. If someone is on the federal no-fly list they should be prohibited from purchasing a gun. If you’re considered too dangerous to get on a plane then you should be prohibited from purchasing a gun.
Most private gun sales don’t require a background check. Anyone who wishes to own a gun, whether they obtain it through a private sale or at a retail outlet or a gun show, should be subject to a background check. There is a federal restriction in place that keeps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching health aspects of gun violence. There is simply no logical reason why the CDC should not be free to study this. More information about some of the root causes of gun violence will help develop policies that address them.
None of these actions I suggest will prevent every gun tragedy, but we cannot let that be an excuse to do nothing. Congress and the president owe it to all those who have been affected by gun violence to stand up and seek meaningful reform. The students, survivors and all who have lost loved ones must live with those scars for life. It’s long past time for their federal government to strengthen gun laws, which won’t prevent every tragedy, but will certainly save lives.
Michael E. Capuano is the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District.