By Mary Gay Scanlon
One of the very first U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearings that I attended was about the impact of gun violence in our communities — the first such hearing in nearly a decade.
It was devastating.
Parents clung to photos of the children they had buried. Survivors fought through tears, demanding action. When we voted to send two gun-safety bills to the House floor, advocates and members of the committee wept tears of joy.
We lose 100 people every single day to an epidemic that some would rather politicize than solve. From hate-fueled massacres such as the mass shootings in Pittsburgh and El Paso, to the senseless violence we see in our communities every day — this is a public health crisis, and it is time we treat it as such. We cannot wait any longer.
Too often, progress gets lost in the headlines. Due to the work of such groups as CeaseFire PA, Moms Demand Action, Giffords, and Everytown, and the commitment to change from a new generation of advocates who are just eligible to vote, Pennsylvania joined other states in passing common sense gun safety legislation last year for the first time in decades, and we elected the first gun safety majority to the U.S. House.
The House has passed four major gun safety measures since January, including H.R.8 – The Bipartisan Background Checks Act, H.R.1112 – The Enhanced Background Checks Act that closes the Charleston Loophole, H.R. 2740 – Increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence in schools, and H.R. 1585 – The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act which includes a measure to close the boyfriend loophole.
All of these bills are sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk, ready for Senate action. McConnell jokes about his legislative graveyard, but 40,000 families are burying loved ones in actual graveyards each year, when their lives are cut short by gun violence. House Resolution 8 and H.R. 1112 were supposed to be the common sense bills we see become laws, the ones that 97 percent of the American public support, but they too sit untouched on McConnell’s desk.
So, our work must continue.
Gun violence has become the second leading cause of death for children in this country, and the number one cause of death for black children. Nearly two thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and over 50 women are fatally shot by an intimate partner every month.
An outlier among developed nations, the United States owns the Gun Violence epidemic and it is time we own up to solutions that are long overdue. Responsible gun ownership, supported by life-saving gun safety policy, is not an infringement on the 2nd Amendment.
We need to eliminate background check loopholes, reinstate the ban on assault weapons, outlaw large magazines, and provide much more robust community mental health services.
These are all common-sense, constitutional measures. While ever more bloodshed transforms our families and communities in ways we could never have imagined, like armed guards in places of worship and bullet proof backpacks for toddlers, we cannot afford any more excuses or delays. We need action.
How many more people need to die before our representatives across all branches of government summon the courage to shrug off the NRA’s golden shackles, and act in the best interest of the people they represent?
We must not become numb to this violence, to the pain of lives lost, and to the anger at indifferent leaders.
We will not stop fighting or stand by silently. We will transform our pain into compassion, our tiredness into advocacy, and paralysis into action. Our families, our children, and our country depends on it.
U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat, represents the Delaware County-based 5th Congressional District. She writes from Washington D.C.