Last week, we added Las Vegas to the list of terrible mass shootings that are numbing America’s senses.
Now we have the familiar conversation of what to do. I certainly support the initial bipartisan response that we need to outlaw mechanisms ─ like the bump stock ─ that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon.
But of course, we need to do more. The great majority of Americans ─ over 90 percent ─ want to see commonsense reforms that keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands. When 33,000 Americans are losing their lives to gun violence every year, the pressure to enact meaningful safety measures should be overwhelming. But somehow, we stay stuck in neutral.
It is no secret that special interests have a stranglehold on our democracy. For the powerful gun lobby, that includes using campaign contributions to block any serious discussion on improving gun safety. If not for that influence, elected officials would have already passed the sensible policies that Americans of all stripes ─ including responsible gun owners─ agree on: universal background checks and limits on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
Like many of you, I am deeply frustrated by the paralysis that infects Washington when it comes to progress on gun safety. But I still come to work each day believing that we can do better ─ that, together, we can find solutions to end the cycle of violence.
We can start by appointing a Select Committee on Gun Violence. Congress needs to have a frank and transparent conversation about this scourge that is heightening fear and anxiety across every community. Let’s have a robust debate about the causes of mass shootings, the impacts of gun violence on public health, and the commonsense reforms that will keep Americans safe.
John P. Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District