Fixing the Epidemic of Gun Violence
As we are once again mourning over the loss of lives after yet another school shooting, the continued inaction on gun control is unacceptable. In the first 5 months of 2018, there have been 5,467 gun deaths, 9,969 gun injuries and 102 mass shootings according the Gun Violence Archive (www.gunviolencearchive.org). Over the past few years, gun violence – while always a clear and present danger in some of our poorer neighborhoods – is now a real-life threat at our schools, houses of worship and public gatherings whether they be a night club, movie theater or outdoor concert. This cannot continue to be the new normal and we must put forth solutions. We owe it to the next generation.
Restore the assault weapons ban: Assault weapons have been used in many tragic, high-profile shootings, including the nation’s most deadly mass shooting which left 58 dead and 851 injured at a music festival in Las Vegas. Studies show that the federal assault weapons ban resulted in a marked decrease in the use of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines in crime. We must restore the assault weapons ban and update it to include a ban on bump stocks and high capacity magazines, as well as other common-sense reforms that will make the law effective in making military weapons much harder to obtain. In Congress, I will cosponsor the assault weapons ban and work to build consensus in both parties.
Establish universal background checks: Although federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective purchasers, it does not require unlicensed sellers to do so. A 2017 study estimated that 42% of US gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check. No matter what steps we take here in California, this won’t be enough if background check loopholes at gun shows continue. For domestic abusers, those on the terror watch list and those with mental illness, we must have federal universal background checks. It’s not enough for states to improve their programs. We have too many loopholes that make it easy for dangerous people to buy a gun.
Hold gun manufacturers accountable: Right now, if you are a gun manufacturer, you face zero liability for your product getting in to the wrong hands. Unlike other industries, gun companies have special legal protections against liability leaving them immune from lawsuits. We must hold the gun industry accountable and ensure there is adequate oversight over the marketing and sales of guns and ammunition. Gun manufacturers should have a vested financial interest in making sure their products do not get in to the wrong hands.
Invest in school safety programs: The idea of armed teachers is reckless, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be investing in tools for schools to increase security on campus. Whether it’s additional security officers, better fencing or more training for teachers to identify problem students before an emergency, the bottom line is that we can do better to support our schools. Especially as schools face tighter budgets, it is important for the federal government to provide resources to help our schools make sure students have a safe environment.
Invest in mental health programs: We must recognize that gun violence is a preventable public health problem. Right now, gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in this country. Unlike other preventable causes of death, we haven’t taken steps to address it. It is important that we fund mental health programs in our schools, so teachers can better identify problems well in advance. We must also provide culturally competent mental health services in the workplace to make sure high risk individuals know that there is assistance available.
Engage Gun Owners in Solutions and Promote Responsible Ownership: In order to tackle the root problem of gun violence, we must engage responsible gun dealers and owners in solutions. Whether it is better training or developing a workable training and licensing program, it is important that there is an education component to gun ownership. This may not help prevent bad apples, but it will help with changing the culture around guns and make it easier to identify those bad apples. Congress can help by funding programs that promote engagement, training and licensing in states.
Reform our campaign finance system: The reality of every challenge we face as a nation is that, absent campaign finance reform, it will be very hard to pass solutions in Congress. The NRA has a dangerous amount of influence on the Republican Party and is able to influence Members of Congress through direct contributions, support from their network and the prospect of dark money campaigns funded by gun manufacturers. We must ensure that there is transparency in our campaign finance system and work to limit the ability of the NRA to control one party in our two-party system. This is dangerous not just for sensible gun policy, but for our democracy.