ANOTHER VIEW: Time Has Come For Action On Guns

January 28, 2016

By Congressman Alan Lowenthal

Hundreds of times over the past decade, we have been horrified by the news of a mass shooting somewhere in the United States.

We have seen the images of lives cut short, of grieving relatives and friends, of anguished police officers and firefighters rushing into the face of danger.

It has reached the point where our President has publicly lamented that we have "become numb" to the destruction of innocent lives on a mass scale.

That is why, no matter how hard it may be, we must step away from the numbness that we have allowed to take over in the face of this national epidemic. I say that we have allowed because we all have, to some degree, turned away from the difficult choices and decisions that need to be made and retreated to a position of passiveness in the face of unspeakable violence and aggression.

President Obama recently unveiled executive actions to expand background checks for prospective gun owners and to enforce existing bipartisan gun laws. I applaud these actions, but I am also pragmatic. This is only one step on what will be a long journey if we are to effectively address gun violence.

The President cannot be and should not be the only one to take action. Any real and long-term solution will need comprehensive and bipartisan efforts at all levels of government.

Since the goal of keeping our communities safe isn't held by one political party or one particular faction, it is possible for all 435 members of Congress to come together on this life or death issue.

Nonetheless, I fully expect that my colleagues and I face an uphill battle to begin the process of forming comprehensive gun safety policy. There is simply no appetite within House leadership to take the next steps in this long journey; to discuss, to debate and to vote. However, I remain hopeful that our hands are not tied completely and the recent lack of legislative progress in Congress on this issue should not be confused with a lack of possible legislative solutions.

In fact, in Congress right now, there is a staggering amount of proposed legislation to address gun violence. By some counts there are nearly 100 pieces of gun-related legislation that could be considered at any time. These include bills addressing gun issues across the political spectrum, from tightening regulations to loosening them. There are numerous bills dealing with topics such as limiting online purchasing of ammunition, establishing gun buyback programs, regulating homemade firearms, preventing suspected terrorists from obtaining firearms and investigating new gun technologies.

And yet, since I took office in 2013, I have not had a single opportunity to vote on any bills related to gun safety despite repeated efforts to simply bring legislation to the floor for a vote.

This is unacceptable and this is not how the Congress, ostensibly a deliberative body, should address such a serious issue.

Congress must begin this long journey by talking about these proposed solutions to these problems. We must begin to engage in a conversation on the merits of these bills, publicize them, analyze them and begin to have the debate our nation deserves.

I've already heard so many messages from my constituents and I know what resonates with them — a sensible policy that protects our communities, respects our Second Amendment rights, and resolves this public health issue that is killing more than 30 Americans each day. I want to be part of the solution and I'm waiting at the table to start the process.

Recent events have made us wonder whether our schools, our movie theaters, even our houses of worship are safe spaces. How can it be acceptable that these institutions now have an aura of danger surrounding them? 

Do I know the complete answer? No. But I know that silence and lack of action is not part of the solution. Allowing ourselves to grow complacent and comfortable in numbness, rather than confront the pain our nation suffers on a regular basis is also not the answer. 

I know that we must work together to pass commonsense gun safety laws and strengthen existing laws to put an end to these tragedies once and for all.