Issue: In December 2012, 28 people, including 20 elementary school students, were shot and killed in Newtown, Connecticut. The next month, the Senate held a hearing on common sense gun reform. Among the numerous powerful testimonies at the hearing was that of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at a public meeting with constituents in her district in 2011 and survived after being prematurely reported dead by numerous news outlets. The day after Congresswoman Giffords testified in favor of common sense gun safety laws, the CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre testified against even the most basic reforms. The powerful lobbyist told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the idea of universal background checks would be “an unworkable universal federal nightmare bureaucracy.”
LaPierre is perfectly representative of how far the pro-gun movement has advanced their agenda. In 1999, after the Columbine shooting, he testified in front of Congress and called the same background checks “reasonable.” The $23 million the NRA has spent on Federal elections since 1990 has played a significant part in Congress’ failure to pass any gun safety legislation since the Assault Weapons ban of 1994, which expired in 2004. But the most effective part of the gun lobby’s strategy has been utilizing unfounded fear to push an extremist interpretation of the Second Amendment.
As a result, time and time again, we watch mentally ill men with assault rifles slay scores of innocent people in the streets and throw our hands up in defeat. An average of 96 people, including 7 children and teens, are shot and killed every day in the United States. Yet instead of demanding change, we continue to elect the same leaders who fail to get guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. We’ve reached a point of such severe collective apathy that when 58 people were shot and killed and over 500 others were wounded in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, it was a given that basic reforms were already out of the question.
Proposal: We will take back our Congress from the NRA. We need to work across the aisle to pass universal background checks, close the gun show loophole, and prohibit private transfers. We must expand the Lautenberg Amendment and address its deficiencies in order to ensure that domestic violence abusers cannot have access to firearms. We also need to disarm hate, and prohibit anyone convicted of an act of hate from owning a gun, indefinitely. Additionally, we must create a national registry of any individuals who own more than 10 firearms, ban semi-automatic assault rifles, bump stocks, and magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds. Finally, we must pass a mandatory reporting law that obligates any gun owner to file a report with the FBI anytime a gun is stolen or lost, to ensure no firearms come into the possession of those who shouldn’t have them.
These regulations would all comply with the Supreme Court’s opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, where the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, identified a non-exhaustive list of “presumptively lawful regulatory measures.” These included longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, laws forbidding guns in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, and conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms. Moreover, the Court determined that laws banning dangerous and unusual weapons is consistent with the Second Amendment.
We want to make it very clear that we are not trying to penalize law-abiding citizens who own guns. If you are a law-abiding citizen, you should be able to have a hunting rifle. You should be allowed to protect yourself and your family with a handgun or a shotgun at home if you feel it’s necessary. But the plain truth is, we don’t need weapons of mass destruction for protection or sport—what we need is common sense gun reform to save lives.
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 627 (2008).