In the U.S., there are over 29,000 gun-related deaths per year. Over 3,000 children and teens lose their life to a firearm every year. Violent crime remains one of the most pressing concerns to residents of our major cities and one of our greatest challenges as a nation.
Congress' responsibility when it comes to our public safety and specifically gun-control are fairly simple. We must limit gun access to the wrong people, enact common-sense gun laws, and provide for adequate methods of both punishment and prevention.
Limiting Access for Children
We must do more to keep the guns out of the hands of our children. To help accomplish this, we should assure that every gun is sold with a consumer safety device called a trigger lock. Trigger locks reduce the risk of a gun being fired unintentionally. Trigger locks are analogous to seat belts in that if they were to be made available as standard equipment, many gun owners could chose to use them and many lives could be saved. Despite the potential to save lives, the gun manufacturers have successfully rallied against this safety feature for years. Congress should enact legislation that requires trigger locks included standard on every handgun purchased.
Limiting Access for Criminals
We must do more to keep guns from being acquired by criminals. A key step toward doing this is to close the gun show loophole. There are anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 gun shows in America every year. The gun show loophole allows anyone, including felons, to buy all the guns they want from local gun shows. This substantial loophole dramatically reduces the effectiveness of the background checks required at all gun stores, thus ensuring that criminals have unfettered access to guns.
Assault Weapons Ban
Law-abiding citizens should have the right to own firearms for self-protection, hunting, target shooting, and recreational purposes and no elected official should ever stand in the way of that right. However, the vast proportions of Americans recognize the reality that individuals do not have a legitimate need for assault weapons. To extend the basic right of gun ownership to such an extreme is clearly not in the best interest of the country and is counter to any standard of common sense.
Semi-automatic weapons that can rapid-fire high volumes of ammunition were initially designed and manufactured for military use. There is virtually no need for citizen gun owners to have the ability to fire large volumes of ammunition without the burden of reloading. These weapons are being used by criminals against the police officers that struggle every day to keep our streets safe. In addition to keeping all guns from being purchased by felons, we must continue our efforts to make these ultra-dangerous weapons off of our streets. These assault weapons are not guns of leisure and self-protection. They are weapons of war and are being adopted in large numbers by the most violent members of our society. Since we first enacted the ban in 1994, there has been a 60% reduction in the crimes committed by these weapons. Congress must act to extend the Assault Weapons ban.
Stringent Punishment and Safety Programs
Along with sensible gun safety and assault weapons legislation, strong penalties for criminals and preventative programs for youth can make a significant impact in reducing future crimes. I have voted in the past to deter crime with very stringent penalties for drug dealers, murderers, and rapists. I have supported preventative programs to help keep kids away from a life of crime.
Gun-related violent crimes remain a drag on our nation. It reduces our quality of life and changes the way we interact with each other in society. Congress must act to provide a safer environment for our children. We must address the challenges of a powerful group that insists on pushing for unlimited access for everyone to any weapon. We must recognize that as we sit idly by, that police officers and scores of innocent citizens are being injured or killed. We must recognize that gun violence is a multi-faceted problem and requires a multi-faceted approach.