Like millions of Americans, I watched the news reports from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and was horrified.
There are no words to express my sadness and outrage over the loss of so many young innocent lives.
Politicians have rushed to offer words of sympathy for the victims, but Americans expect more from us.
And they deserve more from this Congress.
Congress has ducked a serious national debate over common-sense gun laws for too long. While there may be nothing we could have done to have stopped this deranged individual from killing and terrorizing so many people, how many more tragedies must we live through before we say enough is enough?
We have an obligation to act and prevent tomorrow’s senseless deaths by coming together and ensuring that guns stay out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.
Gun violence became very personal to me when my friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, was nearly killed at the hands of a mentally ill gunman while conducting the same type of “Congress at Your Corner” event I have done dozens of times in my career. Six people that day, including 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, had their entire futures taken away from them.
I have seen too many parents’ lives shattered, from Binghamton to Brooklyn.
I will never forget the faces of slain 17-year-old honor student Nyasia Pryear-Yard’s parents, whom I met just weeks after being sworn in to the Senate.
My own two boys are ages 9 and 4, the same ages as many of the children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School when the gunfire rang out.
As a mother, and a lawmaker, I will not allow these tragedies, and the roughly 34 gun violence related deaths that happen every day, to go unanswered. We can no longer sweep the conversation about access to guns under the rug, it is time to demand real solutions.
But in Washington, old and tired political battles have prevented progress. Like far too often in this town, partisans talk past each other, and nothing gets done. The moment someone proposes a solution, it is labeled pro-gun or anti-gun, people run to their respective corners, and nothing is accomplished.
Keeping our children safe from the scourge of gun violence is not a Republican or a Democratic principle; this is an issue for all Americans. There is no political ideology that finds this loss of life acceptable.
The mothers, fathers and reasonable gun owners of America need to take back this conversation.
The truth is that supporting the Second Amendment and reducing gun violence are compatible and consistent. Responsible gun owners vehemently oppose the kind of gun violence afflicting the streets of America. But when gun owners and non-gun owners leap to their opposite corners, we give up our ability to thoughtfully analyze the challenges and forge an honest debate.
As someone who believes in the Constitution and an individual’s right to bear arms, I believe the first place we should look for answers is in the Second Amendment itself, which says, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The words “well-regulated” prove the Founding Fathers themselves understood the need to have reasonable limits.
So we must come together around common-sense solutions. We should be able to agree that no American should have access to the high-capacity ammunition clips made for our military. We should be able to agree on closing the gun-show loophole and banning military-style weapons that have no recreational sports use.
And it is well past time to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and their criminal networks, so that we can stop the flow of illegal guns and reduce the violence that plagues too many communities around New York and across the country.
Every day, illegal guns are flowing into cities around the country. Here in New York City, nearly 90% of the guns used in gun crimes come from out of state, and 90% of these guns are estimated to be illegal. Yet while local law enforcement agencies work overtime to track down these weapons, federal law still restricts their ability to investigate and prosecute those who traffic these firearms.
The absence of any federal law defining gun trafficking in this country is shocking. We have thousands of laws, but effectively none of them are directly focused on preventing someone from Virginia from driving to New York City, parking their car in a parking lot, and selling hundreds of firearms out of the back of their trunk to criminals.
In this next Congress, I hope we can move forward the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act I authored working closely with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the Brady Campaign and New Yorkers to crack down on illegal gun trafficking and stop the flow of illegal guns into our communities.
This holiday season many of us will gather around the table with our families to give thanks for our blessings.
Tragically, some of us will be missing loved ones due to gun violence and illegal guns.
Let us honor these families and their loved ones by doing all we can to eliminate illegal guns and prevent the loss of even one more innocent life.