Like everyone else, I am saddened and appalled by the spate of violent shootings in the last month. Although we don’t know all the details yet about these occurrences, initial reports indicate that the lax gun laws in this country contributed to worsening the impact of these incidents, particularly the shooting in Aurora, Colorado where multiple weapons were used, including an assault weapon with an extremely high-capacity magazine.
Activism against gun violence is an uphill battle. Pro-gun organizations, especially the NRA, use scare tactics to generate huge amounts of financial support which they use with great effect to make legislators afraid of supporting even modest improvements in laws to close loopholes or remove military-style assault weapons from civilian markets.
This has been done in the past: from 1994 to 2004 a federal law banned the manufacture of certain kinds of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. If that law had not been allowed to expire, it is very likely that the shootings in Tucson, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado would not have had such a high toll of wounded and injured. In particular, the shooter in Tucson was wrestled to the ground by citizens when he stopped to reload. If he had had to stop to reload sooner, fewer people would have been hurt.
Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey introduced a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines. I urge you all to write or call your legislators – especially your senators – to urge them to support Sen. Lautenberg’s bill. Ask them to cosponsor it and to pledge to work to make sure that it reaches the floor for a vote.
If you want to get more involved, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is a well-respected institution that has played a key role in advocating for responsible, common-sense legislation that works to reduce gun violence without limiting the rights of law-abiding civilians to keep and use weapons for legitimate purposes. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is also a strong organization that pushes for reasonable restrictions. Check out these sites and at least educate yourself.
Limiting high-capacity magazines is only one step. Another critical problem is the gun-show loophole which allows anyone to buy weapons from unlicensed dealers without a background check. This loophole was what allowed the shooters at Columbine to acquire the weapons they used. An overwhelming majority of both NRA members and gun owners who are not NRA members support closing this loophole, yet Congress continues not to act.
We desperately need to convince our legislators that they have the support of their constituents in taking these common-sense steps to reduce gun violence.