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Op-Ed: We must act now to end gun violence

Gregory Meeks

BY GREGORY MEEKS

Whether it’s Odessa and El Paso Texas, Dayton and Vegas, or Orlando and Sandy Hook, it’s often said that our nation barely has a moment to grieve one mass shooting before the next one makes headlines.

But we must not forget that gun violence happens every day, in homes and on our streets. Yes, even here in Queens.

According to the CDC’s most recent complete data set in 2017, 39,773 people died as a result of gun-related injuries. Gun violence is a national epidemic, manifested by inconsistent gun laws, that spare no community. 

New York has strong gun control laws, this is true. But there is little stopping someone from going to state with more gun stores and fewer laws, driving up or down the “Iron Pipeline” of I-95, and using that weapon here in New York. You may recall the death of NYPD office Brian Moore who was shot by a gun acquired in Perry, Ga.

In August, Queens saw an increase in shootings while, throughout the city, crime has been on a downward trend. In the 113th precinct which covers parts of Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, shootings have increased by 40 percent this year, up to 14 from 10 the year prior.

One crucial way we can reduce gun violence in our community is my instituting federal laws that set at least a floor of necessary gun safety measures, like universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole. The House passed a package of gun safety reforms last winter, H.R. 8, as one of its first major priorities after Democrats resumed leadership.

This legislation is not only bold, it is widely popular across both Democratic and Republican voters alike. According to a recent Quinnipeac poll, 93 percent were in favor of universal background checks, and 82 percent supported requiring a license to purchase a gun. And yet, these House-passed bills are sitting in the Senate’ legislative graveyard, waiting on Sen. Mitch McConnell to heed the will of frustrated Americans tired of the Senate’s inaction.

After all, despite these bills being strong measures to help keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, they are the floor of what Congress can do, not the ceiling. There are more measures that can help drastically reduce damage that can be inflicted by a singular mass shooter. Those measures include banning Assault style weapons like the AR-15 so commonly used in mass shootings, banning extended magazines which allow shooters to shoot longer without reloading.

There are also measures to reduce the gun violence we see every day in our communities, like allowing authorities to temporarily confiscate weapons from those accused of domestic abuse or who are a danger to themselves. Over half of the mass shootings in the U.S. are connected to intimate partner or family-based violence, and the majority of those who kill an intimate partner have a history of domestic violence.

This month, The House Judiciary Committee moved forward with three additional pieces of legislation: H.R. 1186, H.R. 2708 and H.R. 1236, which aim to remove weapons of war out of our streets and restrict those seeking to commit hate crimes from access to guns. 

I’ll soon be reintroducing my legislation from last Congress, the Investor Choice Against Gun Proliferation Act, which would require listed companies to annually disclose their financial relationships with the gun industry, allowing consumers and investors to make informed decision that aligns with their morals. 

Though his position changes by the day, even President Trump has been forced to acknowledge the national momentum for gun reform. We can credit that to local and national activism. I’ve recently met with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who’ve been instrumental in building the gun safety movement, to discuss how we can get common sense gun reform over the finish line. 

We have more guns in this country than we have people. When compared to every other wealthy nation in the world, no other country comes close to matching our rate of gun deaths. This is not the American exceptionalism we want to be known for. It is time for the Senate to bring gun reform legislation to the floor for a vote now. 

Gregory Meeks is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 5th congressional district.

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