Since the Florida school shooting that ended the lives of 17 people, high school students across the country have served as an inspiration, and given us hope that our response to gun violence will finally include meaningful action.
We have a responsibility to help these young people make their voices heard. Congress also has a responsibility to act. There are no more excuses for inaction. Our sadness over the loss of more innocent life can never discourage us from doing what is right.
Let’s look at the facts. Over 93 percent of Americans and 80 percent of gun owners support universal background checks. Ninety percent of Americans also support keeping those who are mentally ill from buying firearms.
That’s why I support commonsense legislation like H.R. 4240, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act. If passed, this bill would expand background checks to include all commercials firearms sales, provide reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers, and preserve Second Amendment rights. States would also be given the incentive of more federal funding to keep proper record-sharing systems to help report criminals and the mentally ill, who we all agree should not be able to buy a gun.
Since the 1990s, background checks have blocked more than $3 million in sales to people not allowed to purchase a firearm. But gaps in the system mean that gun shows and the internet are still perfectly legal places for criminals and the mentally ill to get their hands on a gun. That needs to stop.
And while the right to “bear arms” is guaranteed in the Constitution as clearly as the freedom of speech, as with speech, there are limitations when necessary to curb the threat of violence. For example, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.
I became the first member of Congress from New York to cosponsor the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act. This legislation would give relatives and law enforcement the ability to seek an immediate temporary restraining order from the courts to stop someone who is a danger to themselves or others from buying or possessing a gun.
We now know that the Parkland shooter had been showing signs of mental illness prior to the shooting. It’s possible that a gun violence restraining order could have helped prevent this tragedy. This would be a commonsense way to try and stop people who appear to be an imminent threat to public safety without curtailing their fundamental constitutional rights. In fact, all those petitioning for gun violence restraining orders must prove their case in court.
We’ve heard time and again the NRA’s answer to these mass shootings – “more guns.” That makes no sense. Americans already own more than 300 million guns.
The young people leading this movement need our support. They have inspired a nation to rise and declare, “not one more.” It’s time for the adults, and Congress, to do the same.