Friday, February 15, 2013

An Open Letter to Members of Congress on Gun Reform

by Blueberry T

Dear Senator/Representative:

Before you vote on gun reform legislation, I ask you to read this letter with an open mind and an open heart.

I am sure if your own child, grandchild or loved one was killed at Sandy Hook, Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech, a Chicago park, a Wisconsin temple, a Colorado movie theater, an Oregon shopping mall or anywhere else in this country, you would move heaven and earth to pass gun reform laws, and would deeply regret that you had not done so sooner. Indeed, those who have been personally touched by gun violence are in the forefront of the effort to reduce gun violence and reform our gun laws. I am sure that you would be, too, if you had to endure what they, and the victims and their families and friends, have endured. Right?

Before you vote, please put yourself in the shoes of all those who have lost loved ones. You must act for them and for all of us who beg for better protection from the gun culture that so threatens our safety. In fact, it is long past time for Congress to act to reduce the gun violence that plagues America. But far better late than never. 

More than 31,000 Americans die from gunshot wounds each year, and another 73,000 suffer gunshot wounds. Think about that - more than 10 times as many Americans as died in the 9/11 attacks are killed EACH YEAR by guns. Yet Congress allows that to happen without taking action to try to prevent more deaths. How can that possibly be in the country's best interest?

Gabby Giffords, a gun owner and gun rights supporter and now a gun violence victim, is calling for universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips. Take her advice. Be bold. Act. Ronald Reagan, who also experienced gun violence first-hand, supported the Brady Bill, including a waiting period for gun purchases, and a ban on assault weapons. Why don’t you join him in agreeing to take these military-type weapons off our streets, where they have no legitimate purpose? Justice Scalia, who is among the most conservative members of the Supreme Court, has clarified that the Second Amendment does not preclude restrictions on guns or ammunition

Guns do not make us safer. Having a gun in the home dramatically increases the risk of death or injury from a gunshot, and the states that have more households with guns also have more gun deaths. (Find more information here and here.) When Missouri repealed its requirement for background checks, gun violence increased by 25%.   

The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is twenty times greater than the combined homicide rate of 22 other high-income countries, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “The higher prevalence of gun ownership and much less restrictive gun laws are important reasons why violent crime in the U.S. is so much more lethal than in countries of similar income levels.”  

The idea that we should, or even can, have armed guards everywhere is ludicrous on its face, nor would it solve the problem of gun violence; President Reagan was not lacking in armed guards when he was shot, nor were those at Ft. Hood. Having a gun could not even save Chris Kyle, a highly skilled sniper. Armed guards did not prevent Columbine or Virginia Tech, and as an ABC News program showed, even trained armed guards who were expecting an attack were not able to respond effectively. (Please watch the videos at end of article.)

Must we endure another Sandy Hook and another Aurora? Must we again read about bullets like those in this photo, traveling at 3000' per second, designed to "explode" through the tissue and cause "devastating" injuries such as blasting away a 6-year old’s jaw and hand? What would you do if that were your son? Please do THAT for all our children. 

Must we again picture a young teacher trying desperately to hide and shield her kids, a therapist working with autistic children (about to get engaged and get her PhD) who died trying to protect a child, and an aide trying to shield a child with her own body? Do you know their names, their faces, and their stories? You should; you must. What would you do if that was your wife or daughter? Please do THAT to protect all of us.

Can you honestly say you are doing everything within your power to stop this violence? No – if you are being honest, you cannot say that. But you have the power to really make a difference for the American people. You can do this. We need you to do this. Have courage; you can still do what is right for the American people.  

I urge you – indeed, I beg you - to vote in favor of comprehensive gun reform legislation, which is supported by a significant majority of the American public.   Please support the President's proposal and several additional measures:

·        Require universal background checks and a waiting period (5-7 days) for all gun purchases (more here)

·        Ban large capacity ammunition magazines and hollow point bullets and strengthen rules regarding armor-piercing bullets by banning their possession and transfer, rather than weakening them

·        Ban assault weapons and other semi-automatic weapons (without loopholes of 1994 law). Here is an opinion piece on this subject by the judge who sentenced Jared Lee Loughner; the judge is a conservative gun-owner appointed to the bench by a Republican

·        Improve law enforcement's ability to prosecute gun trafficking and other gun crime

·        Improve the national database and information sharing about guns and gun violence, provide tools to link to critical mental health data

·        Repeal the Tiahrt Amendment that thwarts data-sharing and research and mandates destruction of records regarding guns (more here and here)

·        Remove legal impediments to ballistics tracing and support ATF and other agencies in using this technology to more easily trace guns that are used criminally

·        Mandate annual registration and liability insurance for gun owners, which would help address existing guns and lead to improved safety requirements (more on this here, here and here.)

·        Impose federal taxes on guns and ammunition to pay for programs to reduce gun violence and/or help cover the costs to society (as Cook County, IL is doing) of gun violence, estimated at $100 billion per year in 1998 (Cook PJ, Ludwig J, Gun Violence: The Real Costs

When 6- and 7-year olds are gunned down in their classrooms by a gunman wearing body armor and using an assault weapon and high-capacity ammunition clips, no reasonable person can accept such horror as a legitimate tradeoff for Second Amendment rights. We all also have the right to live free from the fear of being shot, and we share the responsibility to protect our children and all our citizens from senseless violence. If you do not act to prevent this, then you must bear some responsibility and guilt for these and future deaths. I truly hope that is not the case.

Finally, I beg you to be brave. Due to Congress’s failure to properly regulate guns, victims, including young children, had to face an armed gunman, often wearing body armor and using a semi-automatic weapons. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine their terror. You have the power to help prevent these tragedies; please do this for the children and for the good of the nation.  

“It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you." ~Gabby Giffords

Thank you for your consideration. 


Please contact your Senators and Representative today, and also contact others who hold positions of influence regarding this issue. Here is the list of all members of Congress; click on each name for specific contact information. 

Here is an article that addresses many of the arguments against improved gun regulation.  

Here is a short article with some good information on this topic - one of many!

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ProPublica has an excellent post on this subject today.  

Older_Wiser makes the excellent suggestion that body armor should also be banned, except for law enforcement and other authorized users.  

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