The Las Vegas mass shooting that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured shook our nation and moved the conversation about gun reform to the forefront once again. It also brought up the weariness that many of us feel in the wake of a preventable tragedy, as we watch a parade of elected officials offer their thoughts and prayers but fail to also advance meaningful policy reforms.
Despite those who insist that it’s never the right time to talk about gun violence prevention, policy change is exactly what people who have been affected by gun violence deserve to see.
That was the case in 2011, when I began pushing for reform after surviving a shooting rampage in Tucson that left six people dead, including a 9-year-old girl, and left U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords fighting for her life. It is still the case today, in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. We all deserve to feel safe going into public spaces without fearing that someone may randomly open fire on us or our families.
At the same time, addressing gun violence can feel like an impossibly uphill battle — perhaps more than any other political issue today.
But there is a clear starting place: common-sense measures that have been shown to have a positive effect on communities nationwide, and which the public already supports. For example, universal background checks on all firearms sales can help identify people who shouldn’t have access to guns. It’s a measure that the vast majority of Americans favor and that experts say is effective at curbing gun deaths. Other policies that are both popular and effective include prohibiting the use of assault weapons and banning high-capacity magazines.
Though gun laws vary from state to state, at least one trend is clear: states with weaker gun laws have more gun deaths.
You would never know it, though, from the lies pushed by entrenched interests like the National Rifle Association — lies that are backed by the weight of the NRA’s vast political contributions. For example, the NRA claims that guns make people safer, that gun laws don’t work, and that the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But none of that is actually true.
In reality, owning a gun puts individuals at a higher risk of gun violence; strong gun violence prevention laws are effective at saving lives; and “armed citizens rarely successfully intervene to stop an active shooter.”
We have to be willing to call out these myths, educate voters and hold elected officials accountable when they repeat them.
The United States is an extreme outlier when it comes to the level of gun violence we endure as compared to other industrialized nations. More than 90 Americans die every day because of gun violence, seven of whom are teenagers or children. While we can’t prevent all future gun violence, we can push for reforms that, if implemented, will save many of those lives.
We’re past the point of crisis: lawmakers should be doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of all Americans. When we fail to push proven reforms because success seems politically impossible, then the NRA lobbyists have already won — at the expense of our communities and our families.