We must say “NO” to Gun Violence

Like many Americans, I was horrified by the senseless loss of life in El Paso and Dayton this weekend. I mourn for the loss of innocent lives and the devastated families and friends they leave behind. These terrible events mark the 31st and 32nd mass killings in the U.S. since Jan. 1 of this year. It’s early August. How many more people will die in mass killings by legally-purchased weapons by the end of the year?

Mass killings have become far too commonplace; it terrifies me that we may become desensitized to the horror and come to accept mass murder as part of American culture. This is NOT who we are as Americans. These violent acts are a perversion of the American psyche.

We must fight against the normalization of mass murder by renewed commitment to working together to enact meaningful change. 

A first step would be to enact commonsense gun legislation that would help reduce the threat of gun violence while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners. This session, I plan to introduce a bill requiring individuals to participate in a gun safety training course before purchasing their first firearm or receiving a conceal carry permit.  There are dozens more bills awaiting consideration.

Unfortunately, these bills have been held back in committee by legislative leaders.  Unless bills pass through committee process, there is no opportunity for honest debate and no chance of passage.  The democratic process is thwarted and the voice of the people whom legislators were elected to represent is silenced. To galvanize legislative action, the chairs of the legislature’s PA SAFE CAUCUS have called for a special joint session this fall to address the epidemic of gun violence and extremism in our country with the goal of enacting gun safety laws to keep Pennsylvanians safe.

But an equally pressing issue is recognizing that these events of mass murder are symptoms of the hatred, bigotry, and deranged world view that threaten to become part of our new normal.  It’s up to us to ensure they do not take hold. 

We can start by remembering the American values of tolerance and diversity that have been subverted by a factionalism that demonizes differences and obstructs meaningful debate.

We are at a crisis point in our history. We can choose the better angels of our natures, dedicate ourselves to the values for which our country stands, and declare a new day in America.

We must. Innocent lives depend on it.