To the editor:
If we hope to have any meaningful national-level progress on improving gun safety before the next mass shooting, this week (and the next) are critical, and focusing on universal background checks and anti-trafficking are the key issues we can agree on. Why now? Because Congress knows they need to do something now, to get it behind them, and if they pass a series of watered-down tokens, it will take frustrating years to get back to a serious effort.
While the mass shootings have understandably galvanized attention on gun violence, the focus on assault weapons has frozen and polarized the discussion and allowed diversion of attention away from the annual U.S. total of 11,000 homicides, 19,000 suicides and 600 unintentional deaths, all carried out with firearms. Pro-controls and pro-guns people are simply not listening to each other well enough to work out a solution. And note I didn’t say “pro-safety,” because I do believe the vast majority of gun owners are pro-safety. We’re all just being drowned out by the extremes of NRA and gun lobby leadership on one side, and the genuine horror of mass shootings on the other.
I personally don’t see the place for high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons in any sporting or hunting situation, but I reluctantly conclude that bans on those weapons and clips should be dropped in order to move ahead promptly with matters we can agree on.
Background checks do work, as the Mayors Against Gun Violence coalition, co-founded by Mayor Menino and supported by Mayors Bill Scanlon, Kim Driscoll and Ted Bettencourt, has documented in a published report:
Since its inception in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has blocked more than 2 million attempted gun sales to prohibited purchasers, including more than 250,000 gun sales to domestic abusers.
The coalition also reports that a 2012 survey found that 88 percent of gun owners — including 86 percent of NRA members — support criminal background checks for all gun sales.
Senate Bill 649, containing solid provisions for universal background checks, is up for debate before the full Senate this week. I urge you to contact Sen. Warren at 202-224-4543 or www.warren.senate.gov/contact.cfm and Sen. Cowan at 202-224-2742 or www.cowan.senate.gov/contact to make your voices heard in support.
Likewise, Congressman John Tierney hosted a local conference on the topic in early March, allowing all sides to air their views. I urge you to contact him, as well, at (202-225-8020) or http://tierney.house.gov/, showing that substantial numbers on all sides do support background checks that work.