President Obama has proposed a package of gun safety reforms, including executive orders to better implement current laws. But key changes will require Congress to act, and President Obama asked for our help. (More)

obama gun violence

As all of our readers presumably know, yesterday President Obama launched a major effort to curb our nation’s epidemic of gun violence. Our president signed 23 Executive Orders designed to help address issues of gun violence, gun safety, and mental health. And he urged Congress to pass critical legislative initiatives, including: closing the gun show loophole, reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban, banning ammunition clips holding more than 10 bullets, getting armor piercing bullets off the streets, and ending the ban on gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and other federal entities.

Public opinion research shows that the majority of Americans support each one of these proposals. For example, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found 85% support for closing the gun show loophole, and 55% support for an assault weapons ban. Yet, if history is any guide, getting such legislation passed is going to be extremely difficult. There are many reasons for this disconnect between what the public wants and what Congress is willing to do on guns. But a key factor here is that the gun fetishists are far more politically involved than are those of us who support sensible gun safety legislation.

For example, the Pew Research Center survey found that 23% of gun rights supporters had contributed to an organization that takes positions on gun policies, while only 5% of gun safety supporters had done so. 15% of gun rights supporters had contacted their elected officials on the issue, while only 8% of gun safety supporters had. In order for the result to be different this time, we must turn those numbers around by all of us getting involved in pressuring our elected officials to support the gun safety proposals set forth by President Obama today.

Here are five things you can do today to make sure we succeed this time in curbing gun violence:

  1. Call your Senators and Representative and demand that they support closing the gun show loophole, banning assault weapons and ammunition clips larger than 10 bullets, getting armor piercing bullets off the streets, and ending the freeze on gun violence research.
  2. Write a letter to your local newspaper editor in support of those legislative proposals.
  3. Join and, if you can, contribute financially to one or more of the following organizations that are working to reduce gun violence in the US – Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
  4. Plan to participate in the March on Washington for Gun Control on January 26, 2012.
  5. Talk with your family, friends, and colleagues and urge them to take all of the actions listed above.

Last week’s Morning Feature series explored how to discuss gun safety. Here are a few additional talking points:

  • We can do better than having a society where 11,500 people die from gun violence every year, and where there has been 60 mass killings with guns since the early 1980s.
  • 40% of gun purchases today do not involve a background check due to the gun show loophole.
  • This isn’t about taking away people’s guns. Instead, it is about recognizing that with the right to bear arms comes the need for societal responsibility to ensure that guns are used safely, that they do not fall into the wrong hands, and that military-style assault weapons and armor piercing bullets are kept off of our streets.
  • Emphasize that we want an up or down vote in Congress on these legislative proposals. In the Senate, that means no filibustering. And in the House, that means lifting the Hastert Rule under which the Republican majority refuses to bring any legislation up for a vote unless it has the support of a majority of the Republicans in the House. If these legislative proposals have majority support in the House and the Senate, they should be passed rather that thwarted by petty obstructionism.

In his press conference announcing his gun safety plan, President Obama made clear how critical it is for the American people to demand passage of his proposal:

This will not happen unless the American people demand it. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say, enough; we’ve suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue – then change will come. That’s what it’s going to take.

In the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.” Julia, I will try very hard. But she’s right. The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do.

Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them what’s more important – doing whatever it takes to get a A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?

Let’s heed our president’s call and get to work making our communities and nation safer by finally tackling the scourge of gun violence.