As of Nov 29, 2017, there have been 14,157 gun related deaths in the United States. Included in those statistics is the Las Vegas Shooting on Oct. 1, the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history. The frequency of these events has caused us to be almost desensitized to such tragedies. We try to remedy the situation by tweeting and sending thoughts and prayers — efforts that mean well but do very little. The only way to systematically prevent such tragedies from occurring — legislative action — has been the focus of political gridlock and partisan debate several years, but to no avail. Policy fails to be changed, bullets continue to fly and lives continue to be lost.
But hope may be on the horizon. For the first time in years, Democrats and Republicans have drafted gun-control policy that both sides agree on. The bill in question, sponsored by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, sets out to strengthen the system of background checks necessary to purchase a gun. Although the bill is sponsored by a Democrat, it has garnered support from several Republicans in the Senate, including John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, Tim Scott and Dean Heller.
Gun control debates in Washington generally lead to inaction because of Republican opposition to increasing restrictions. Rather, this specific bill’s purpose is to make sure people cannot attain firearms when they were never supposed to have them in the first place, a stark divergence from other gun control proposals.
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The proposal is a direct reaction to the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas in early November, where gunman David Kelley shot and killed 26 innocent churchgoers. In 2014, Kelley was convicted of domestic violence against his wife and child while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Consequently, he was removed from military service and spent a year in prison.
Obviously, a man with such a violent history should never have passed the background check to obtain firearms. But it was found that the United States Air Force failed to record Kelley’s offenses in the National Criminal Information Center database. This bill is set to make sure a fatal mistake such as this one never occurs again.
The fact this piece of legislation has gained so much support from both sides is promising for gun control advocates, as it shows that common ground between Democrats and Republicans in such a polarizing issue exists. What is even more promising is that bipartisan policy such as this has been approved before, such as the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 after the Virginia Tech shooting.
Despite this promising start, there is no guarantee the legislation will pass, as it must be supported by Republican congressional leadership. But after years of partisan fighting and political gridlock, common ground between the two opposing parties is a beacon of hope for not just gun control advocates, but for the overall welfare and safety of the American public. Each side may deeply desire a partisan overhaul, but as we have seen for years, it will never happen. Compromise is the first step to action.
As constituents, we may not have direct influence in whether or not this legislation is passed, but there are more effective ways to get involved than posting on Facebook. Contact your senator by phone or email and show support for the bill. Washington needs to utilize this momentum to make historical change for the American people.
It is up to politicians in Washington to make sure our friends and family are safer on the streets, at music festivals, at school or at church. To make sure that the congregants of First Baptist Church, or the attendees of the Route 91 Music festival, did not lose their lives in vain.
The 14,157 people who have perished due to gun violence this year are more than just numbers. They were human beings like you and I, with families, hopes and long lives to live. They deserve compromise. They deserve justice.
Abby Steinberg ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.