At a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting recently, I was struck by the resolve of the men, women and children standing beside me. There was sadness and there were tears shed, but there was also a renewed commitment for change, a steely demand that something be done to at least reduce the chances of another tragedy like this from happening again.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported common-sense restrictions on gun control, and I have seen the media’s attention to and the public’s passion for the debate ebb and flow. What I see right now is a groundswell of support for reform — we must seize this opportunity to act now. And while the National Rifle Association (NRA) may be powerful, many of its members are willing to adopt reasonable safety measures, and the NRA leadership alone is no match for the power of the American people, the power of our voices working together.
There is no doubt that this will be hard, but it is nowhere near as difficult as doing nothing and seeing another family lose their child, or another child lose his or her parent to gun violence.
First things first, we need to reinstate the so-called Assault Weapons Ban. In 1994, Congress first passed this law, banning high-capacity magazines and certain assault weapons. The ban did not take away the Second Amendment right to bear arms, or prevent hunters and sportsmen from continuing their traditions, but it limited the ease with which assault weapons find their way onto our streets. I pledge to push for immediately reinstating an improved Assault Weapons Ban that also restricts the size of ammunition feed devices.
Further, there is no reason we cannot agree to implement full background checks on all gun purchases. While the Brady Act directs federally licensed dealers to run background checks, those purchases made at gun shows, online, through newspaper ads, and more are not held to the same standard. According the Center for American Progress, 40 percent of firearm acquisitions are from individuals who are not licensed gun dealers and do not undergo any background checks.