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BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.

Following a church shooting in Texas that left 26 dead and 20 wounded, President Donald Trump publicly took a stand against increasing gun control, claiming that if stricter laws were in effect, more people could have been killed during the attack. If this premise doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, including me, but for argument’s sake, let’s take a look at the reasoning behind the Commander-in-Chief’s words.

First, during an interview in Tokyo, Trump said the incident was not “a guns situation”, but “a mental health problem at the highest level.” From what has been reported in the media so far, we know that the gunman and Air Force veteran, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been court marshalled in 2012 for allegedly beating his ex-wife and cracking his stepson’s skull. He was discharged from military in 2014 for bad behavior. The Air Force admitted that if they had reported his criminal behavior during his time in the military, it would have made it impossible for him to legally purchase a weapon, according to a report by the BBC. The Air Force is looking into the matter to see just how the oversight occurred. So, in this scenario, Trump may have a point, but it seems like the only one.

Trump contends that a “good guy with a gun” helped to stop the shooter, preventing him from possibly killing more people. Trump was referring to armed bystander Stephen Willeford, who shot Kelley with his privately owned weapon causing the gunman to flee the scene. Another bystander, Johnnie Langendorff, also chased Kelley, who eventually died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being cornered by law enforcement. Trump went on to use the city of Chicago as an example of a location where strict gun laws has not prevented shootings. He went so far as to call Chicago, “a total disaster.”

The reasoning here is that our current gun laws allow upstanding citizens like Stephen Willeford to take out a mass murderer, that allowing so-called good guys to own guns prevents or limits the death count in these cases and that is simply not true. I think we can all agree that the United States has more armed citizens than mass murderers, yet we have an inordinate amount of mass shootings in comparison.

The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters between 1966 and 2012, according to data published by New York Magazine, which also cites that no other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. I think Trump needs to apply the “extreme vetting,” formula, he claims weeds out dangerous terrorists and apply it to those people seeking to purchase a firearm. We have seen many terror-related mass shootings such as the one most recently committed in New York in the name of Isis, but we have also had unstable people who are not immigrants, not terrorists, who commit heinous acts such as the one in Texas. Let’s not forget, the Sandy Hook shooting, Columbine, or the Oklahoma City bombing.

It is time to take a strong stance against guns and to stop pandering to the gun lobbyists. We need to be in control of our country and our safety. We have many churches in Southeast Queens and any one of them could be a potential target. Under those conditions, I have held many clergy training sessions where I have brought in top defense experts to teach these faith-based leaders how to protect themselves and their congregations. The next one will be held on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at St. Anthony of Padua, 127-17 135th Avenue, South Ozone Park, NY 11417. You must RSVP by contacting my office at 718-523-3069. It is sad and disturbing that people can get shot and killed while peacefully praying at a house of worship. Don’t be a victim, come to our event and empower yourself. What you learn, might just save your life.

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