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Dean: Gun Violence Needs To Be A Top Priority For Voters

Summer is a time for making memories with friends and family, barbecuing, block parties, or going to the shore. But for festival goers in Gilroy, California; back-to-school-shoppers in El Paso, Texas; diners in a bar in Dayton, Ohio; and too many others throughout the country, this summer’s memory will be forever marked by gun violence and tragedy. 

These latest mass shootings have made the issue of gun violence surge to the forefront of the American public. But the horrific reality is that gun violence doesn’t surge and subside, it is a constant crisis in this country—40,000 people were killed in 2017, and another 100,000 were injured, literally caught in the crossfire. That is over 100 people, the equivalent of a jet liner crashing down every single day in this country. 

Americans recognize this as a deadly problem, and one with real solutions available. For years, support for common sense reforms like universal background checks has been above 90%, and as high as 97% in February, according to Quinnipiac

Though the violence is constant — and support for reforms like universal background checks is constant — we have not passed substantive federal reforms into law; perhaps that’s because we have failed to sustain the attention and urgency. That must change. 

It is true, we have made progress this year. In February, House passed H.R. 8, universal background check legislation, and H.R. 1112, closing the Charleston Loophole. But these bills have hit a wall in the Senate, and I fear they may continue to be blocked unless there is a shift in how we prioritize gun safety among voters.

How has the Senate, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, been able to get away with blocking life-saving solutions, despite vast support? How can President Trump’s express shallow support for stronger background checks one day, and then flip-flop just a few days later? 

One factor is that the National Rifle Association has successfully made gun rights a number one voting issue for its members. But we know that this is a minority opinion—albeit a loud and funded minority. But the NRA is not what it once was: foundering through financial mismanagement and paper-tiger leadership. 

It’s time for voters to be one issue too: demand leaders committed to gun safety reform, leaders committed to saving lives, leaders who speak with courage and urgency. Accept nothing less. 

Elected leaders must believe that success on election day depends on them doing the right thing, depends on them standing up for the safety of their constituents and passing these life-saving measures. President Lincoln said “public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed.” The polls show that the sentiment is there, but if I may be so bold as to add to Lincoln’s statement, we also need public commitment to these beliefs. 

This month, The House Judiciary Committee—of which I am a member—will convene to consider three more gun violence bills: banning high capacity magazines, Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) legislation, and prohibiting those convicted of hate crimes from purchasing a firearm. We are convening because as legislators we have a duty to protect our constituents — it is the job we were elected to do. Now it is time that the Senate do the same. 

And it is the job of the voters to help us turn the tide by exercising your rights and reminding us that we represent you, we represent the families of victims, and we represent the 90% of people calling for reform. Voters must take this issue to the ballot box every November. Make it known that this single issue will be the beacon to guide your vote, and that clarity will either change the hearts of representatives, or it will change those who represent us. 

The demand for gun violence reform forward cannot not come in waves that coincide with mass shootings, because 100 people killed by gun violence is a mass tragedy every single day. Rather, we need a steadily rising tide that only ebbs as a result of powerful reform, and an end to the gun violence epidemic that is uniquely American.

Madeleine Dean is Congresswoman representing Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District and an Advisory Board member of Kennedy Democrats.

10 Responses

  1. What really was the intent of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the 2nd Amendment. Reasonable people would admit, they could not predict the future of weapons and technology. With the knowledge they had in the late 18th century, I would expect the intent of the 2nd Amendment was to give citizens the legal protection so they may own a few weapons and ammo to protect their family and provide for hunting for food, along with the ability to protect friends and community from the overreach by government OR perhaps by a tyrant who would turn the military on private citizens.

    Unfortunately, they could not have predicted mentally unstable people being able to acquire weapons and ammo to turn on innocents like children and peaceful people. As with other tweaks and changes to the laws over the history of the country, perhaps it is time for similar tweaking to the 2nd Amendment.

    Dean is right though, the only way changes will happen is if those who want the changes are a much stronger / louder voting block than those who want to maintain the status quo. Remember too, there was a time when those who wanted Prohibition became strong enough to achieve it for a short term, but then the tide turned back.

    1. An interesting perspective from one who is not using an ink-well and quill for posting to so many… I presume then that electronic communications are not covered under either free speech or privacy rights?

      Or the list of books you take from the library in the form of little black marks on compressed wood pulp is protected – but your e-books are fair game?

      And just why isn’t the ability to own “weapons and ammo to protect their family and provide for hunting for food, along with the ability to protect friends and community from the overreach by government OR perhaps by a tyrant who would turn the military on private citizens” JUST AS VALID now as it was then? Are we worth less as individuals now?

      But all of this goes to an even more important point… Just what is the purpose of “government”? It certainly isn’t to make you safe and secure – no “government” has actually ever been able to do that. I bet you don’t even know that the police aren’t even there to protect you (in fact they have no legal duty to do so at all). So what is government’s role? Have you ever actually thought about it?

      In fact, the founders did think about it – a lot actually… And in doing so, created 10 “Amendments” to the newly written “Constitution” – it was an attempt to assure INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY in spite of the overwhelming power this new union of states could command.

      These first 10 Amendments were not a prescription for the people, able to be “tweaked” when desired – they were outright PROHIBITIONS ON GOVERNMENT.

      They cannot be “tweaked”, or regulated out of existence, or considered as anything less than a PROHIBITION ON GOVERNMENT.

      If you want to change that (e.g., repeal the 2nd Amendment) – the instructions are right there… in that very same document.
      They are straightforward and very easy to understand. And, I am actually encouraging you to attempt it… For in your failure – it will put this silly notion to bed for at least one, if not two generations.

  2. blah blah blah blah,….while people die. There is so use in hunting for semi-auto guns. Shotguns maybe, but personally I refuse to use them as not sporting to the animals. No use for 50-shot clips. No use for bumpstocks. No use for silencers. There is no rational argument for banning these items meant only for war and killing people. Anybody who tries is a damn fool or an idiot.

    1. boy oh boy this website needs an edit button
      to correct mistakes. Meant to say there is no rational argument for NOT banning these killer items.

      1. Interesting… “semi-auto guns”… like those that the police have (most carry one hanging from a belt all day long)…

        Or “semi-auto guns”… like those that were invented over 170 years ago when the first double-action revolvers became a reality?

        I own firearms… and I am NOT a hunter. I am not a competition shooter, and I only “target shoot” to maintain proficiency in using those firearms.

        I expect that if I am ever FORCED to use them for the reason I actually own them – that they will shoot accurately, function flawlessly, and actually do horrible things to those on the receiving end.

        I also understand that being FORCED to use them for the reason I actually own them will likely be one of the most traumatic events of my entire life.

        I find owning firearms to be an expensive, time consuming, and inherently dangerous proposition (both from a physical as well as legal liability perspective) Yet, those are costs, effort, and hazards I consider well worth the risk.

        Why is it worth the risk? Because those guns are there to protect me – and more importantly those I love – and nobody is going to tell me what I “need” to do that.

  3. As a gun owner, we hate to see gun violence as well. However, we know the proposals out there, including in this article, will do nothing to reduce it but will harm law abiding gun owners.

    Banning standard capacity magazines will do nothing, as its easy to reload (as happens in Parkland).

    Banning scary looking guns will do nothing, as they function exactly the same as friendly looking guns.

    Red flag laws will do thing, as there are plenty of things to kill people with – the goal should be mental confinement, not removing guns and leaving.

    Universal background checks (which note 90+% of the country DOESN’T support, as actual referendums only ever get as high as 56%), will do little as almost all of the mass shooters got their guns legally, and the ones that didn’t broke the law.

    Now on the last point, there actually might be a compromise, as gun owners don’t want to sell to criminals. Let any gun owner run a background check on themself, and use that number to show to a seller who can verify the number is a non-prohibited person. THAT’S a good solution. But that won’t fly with the anti-gunners, because they know they can’t track us then.

      1. Thank for your lucid and informed reply. All of us out here appreciate it for exactly its worth in the public sphere of political discussion.

  4. ERPOs are dangerous to liberty. In technical terms, they call it an ex parte order. These orders violate due process, which is a guaranteed protection for Americans in the U.S. Constitution. It’s serving punishment on an American for doing nothing wrong. It’s like confiscating an automobile from an alcoholic, being suspicious that the alcoholic will cause a death. It’s “guilty until proven innocent.” It violates due process because the gun-owner victim, who has not committed a crime, is not afforded the opportunity to be heard by a court before his firearm is confiscated. The burden is placed solely on the gun-owner victim who has not committed a crime, to hire and pay for a lawyer and then try to obtain his stolen property back. This is not how our system of justice works in America.

    1. People have no idea what they are doing with ERPOs, and the infringements on liberties we all should hold dear.

      It is unfortunately like some people are simply members of a pack of lemmings running after the leaders, even as the leaders fall off the cliff – they follow. They don’t know why they follow, or what end will meet them as they do… they just follow.

      But a more interesting question might be … what the heck are the leaders thinking?

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