Opinion Pieces

Op-Ed: We need a bipartisan solution to gun violence

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Long Island, NY, October 15, 2015 | Coleman Lamb ((202) 225-5516) | comments
By U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (NY-04)

The recent mass shooting at a community college in Oregon has sparked a renewed debate about whether Congress can and should take action to help prevent gun violence. It’s a debate we’re all familiar with, one that has raged on for years, gaining heightened attention in the aftermath of particularly horrific shootings like those at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, and so many other places that have been seared into our memory because of bullets and bloodshed.

But nothing ever comes of this debate. Politicians on one side, myself included, call for measures that we consider common sense – like expanding background checks, banning the sale of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and designating gun trafficking a federal crime. Critics on the other side say such proposals will have no effect on gun violence, and only amount to an attack on the Second Amendment.

And nothing happens.

We can’t go on like this. We can’t keep engaging in an argument that goes nowhere while we watch scenes of mass gun violence unfold in schools, theaters, places of worship and public spaces across the country. We can’t keep ignoring the fact that more than 30,000 people on average are killed by a gun each year in the United States. And we can’t keep acting as if there’s nothing we can do about it.

We need a new approach to preventing gun violence in America, one that shuts out the extremists and special interests and focuses on the facts. That’s why, last week, I joined my fellow House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Vice Chairs in cosponsoring a resolution introduced by Chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA) that will create a bipartisan select committee to investigate the causes and effects of gun violence.

The committee will be made up of six Republicans and six Democrats who will study every aspect of gun violence, from mass shootings to suicides. They’ll examine the federal background check system and how we can improve it, how we can do a better job keeping guns away from people who aren’t legally allowed to have them, like violent criminals, domestic abusers, and people with dangerous mental illnesses. They’ll review federal gun-trafficking laws, and determine if stricter penalties would help stop the flood of illegal firearms into our communities. They’ll study gun laws at the state level, and see what measures have been effective and how we could replicate them at the federal level. They’ll assess the reliability, accuracy and accessibility of data on gun violence in America, and look at how we could arm ourselves with better information as we take on such a massive problem.

And within 60 days of its creation, the committee will issue a comprehensive report outlining their findings and recommending concrete legislative proposals that can help prevent gun violence without violating the Second Amendment.

This is the best way forward. This is the way we can finally arrive at real action after so many years of fruitless debate. With Republicans in control of Congress and a Democrat in the White House, we have no choice but to work together.

I doubt there is a single member of Congress who doesn’t think gun violence is a problem in America. We may not agree on every solution, but I know that if we can just agree to work together, we will find common ground. We will find reasonable solutions to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them, and we will find ways to help prevent gun violence without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of any responsible, law-abiding American citizen.

So let’s investigate what we should all agree is a very real and very serious problem. Let’s come together, Democrats and Republicans, and figure out how we can help prevent gun violence in a bipartisan way.

The American people are tired of hearing us talk. They are demanding action, and it’s time that we listened.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, of New York’s 4th Congressional District, was Nassau County district attorney from 2006 to 2015.

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