We must deliver gun safety reform
Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton, and the 250 mass shootings this year demonstrate that our nation is afflicted by a gun violence crisis. Thoughts and prayers are with the shooting victims and their families. But, clearly, that is not enough. It is critical that Congress, our country and our communities deliver not only words, but also action on gun safety reform.
Congress must provide policy solutions that protect Americans from gun violence. In February, the House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act. These bipartisan bills expand critical resources for background checks and close loopholes allowing individuals to buy a firearm without a background check. Each day, background checks stop more than 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun.
The House fulfilled its duty to pass legislation that will reduce gun violence. Frustratingly, the Senate has failed to act. It has been 165 days since the House passed the two background checks bills, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not held a vote on either bill. If Leader McConnell is unwilling to hold votes on these fundamental bills to prevent gun violence, then he, and others who refuse to confront this crisis, must be held accountable by their constituents.
There is no substitute for background checks, but other gun safety reforms, such as red-flag laws to temporarily remove firearms from those who pose an imminent danger, should also be considered by Congress. Several bills, which I have supported, would make it more difficult for criminals, terrorists, and domestic abusers from owning or acquiring firearms. I also have cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban and legislation to ban high capacity magazines. Additionally, I authored legislation to remove firearms from those legally prohibited from owning them. Further delay in passing commonsense legislation puts more innocent Americans at risk of being victims of gun violence.
Our country faces the growing threat of domestic terrorism. The shooters in Gilroy and Dayton explored violent ideologies prior to their attacks. The white nationalist in the El Paso shooting drove several hours to target Latinos after outlining his racist motivations online. To combat these homegrown extremists and their violence, we must provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools necessary to investigate their nefarious activities and confront their bigotry, racism, and divisiveness.
Our country’s leaders must address this threat head-on and denounce these extremists. In an address to our nation in the wake of last week’s mass shootings, the President said, “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” Rather than using teleprompter lines for political cover for his incendiary rhetoric used at political rallies, the President must reinforce those words with actions. This President should promote and enact legislation such as the Domestic Terrorism DATA Act and the Securing American Nonprofit Organizations Against Terrorism Act.
Our communities must also have the wherewithal to recognize threats of gun violence. FBI behavioral research found that 80-90% of mass shooters showed warning signs prior to their attacks. Unfortunately, law enforcement is often the last to be made aware of these threats. We must encourage our neighbors to report concerns to law enforcement when they see red flags or in online forums and social media. If you see something, say something. Members of the community must be proactive by identifying and disrupting potential attacks before they occur.
As a member of our community who attended the Garlic Festival on the same day as the shooting, as your Congressman, and as an American, I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to confront our nation’s gun violence epidemic. Thoughts and prayers for the victims, although appropriate, are insufficient. Our thoughts must be about how we can be vigilant in our communities, pass commonsense gun safety reforms in Congress, and defeat violent extremism in our country. If not, our prayers should be for those who failed to act.
Jimmy Panetta represents the 20th district of California in Congress.