Demand A Plan on Gun Violence
In the month following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama pushed to make gun control a top priority, saying, “The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.” In response, Congress has introduced 10 bills addressing gun violence. While the end goal is the same, legislators are presenting a wide variety of ways to accomplish it.
The senseless killing of 20 innocent children and the six adults charged with their education has catalyzed the call to action. Will you respond to former Rep. Gabby Giffords’s challenge “to do something”? United Methodist Women stood with other faith leaders at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on January 17, 2013, to call for mandated criminal background checks on every person seeking to purchase a gun, for a ban on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, and for make making gun trafficking a crime. You, too, can respond to the challenge.
Proposed Gun Control Bills
With the nation’s renewed focus on gun control, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and other congressional members have introduced four new bills for consideration:
- H.R. 137: Fix Gun Checks Act creates incentives for states to enter the names of felons and mentally ill people into the NICS database.
- H.R. 138: Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act bans high-capacity ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds.
- H.R. 141: Gun Show Loophole Closing Act requires all gun purchasers to undergo a full background check, closing the loophole for those who buy guns through private firearm sales at gun shows.
- H.R. 142: Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act mandates all ammunition dealers to have a license to sell ammunition and requires them to report any bulk purchases. It would also ban all online and catalog sales of ammunition, requiring buyers to make purchases in person.
(Having personal experience with the issue of gun control, McCarthy is a leading voice in the deliberations held by the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1993 her husband and son were victims of a mass shooting on a Long Island commuter train; her husband was killed and her son was severely injured.)
Other Democrats in the House are also presenting a variety of measures that they believe would address the issue of gun violence.
- H.R. 34 and H.R. 117 both address a federal system that regulates the issuing of gun licenses, creates a national registry of handguns and requires anyone purchasing a handgun to complete a gun safety course.
- H.R. 21 would require the reporting of all stolen guns in order to improve the tracking of illegal guns.
- H.R. 65 would increase the age of legal handgun ownership to 21 from 18.
H.R. 35 and H.R. 133 are two bills that have been offered by Republicans in Congress to repeal the gun-free zone laws that currently increase penalties for bringing firearms near a school. This is in response to the National Rifle Association’s suggestion that schools would be safer if every teacher were armed and there were armed guards posted at school entrances.
The Senate, led by Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will consider the assault weapons ban. This bill includes many of the provisions found in the original ban but is updated to reflect current gun manufacturing trends by tightening the definition of what is considered “assault” and banning after-market modifications.
Varying Viewpoints on Gun Control
Most experts and the general public support a combination of steps to curtail gun violence. At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, lawmakers heard from witnesses who offered varying viewpoints on what is and is not a necessity when looking at gun control in the United States, and who made a range of suggestions, including:
- a ban on high-capacity clips
- the need for universal and timely submissions to NICS
- the importance of improving the mental health system and diagnosis process in the United States
- allowing legal armed defense in schools by security guards and teachers
- reinstatement of the assault weapons ban
- a more dedicated effort to enforce current gun laws
- the importance of the ability to carry weapons to combat violence against women.
Also important is President Obama’s proposed package, which includes recommendations to Congress and 23 executive actions to curb gun violence. Executive orders and congressional actions not only respond to the Newtown massacre but also reflect a growing consensus that gun violence has reached epidemic proportions. Since Newtown, there have already been thousands of gun-related deaths in the United States.
Gun Solutions in Other Nations
Both sides of the political spectrum are also looking at measures that other industrialized countries have implemented to end gun violence within their own borders. In 1996, following the Port Arthur massacre that left 35 dead, the Australian government pushed through aggressive gun laws and implemented the most ambitious gun buyback program ever seen, removing nearly one-sixth of available guns from the streets. Australia banned all assault weapons, tightened the ability to acquire permits and created a strictly maintained national registry. Since then, Australia’s gun violence has shrunk considerably, and the country has not experienced a mass shooting since Port Arthur.
After a 1996 incident, the United Kingdom took drastic measures to reduce gun violence, implementing laws that make gun ownership more difficult. The country banned handguns and automatic weapons and instituted an intricate system requiring those wishing to buy guns to spend hours filling out paperwork, designed to reduce the possibility of guns falling into the wrong hands. Because of these reforms, the United Kingdom has seen a steady decline in gun violence, proving that tough gun laws can reduce violence on the streets.
- Join others in the faith community committed to addressing gun violence. For more information about the involvement of United Methodist Women, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-682-3633, ext. 3106.
- Sign and share the petition at www.demandaplan.org. This petition urges the Obama administration and Congress to address gun violence in a real and meaningful way.
- Urge your mayor to be part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Check if your mayor has signed on.
- Contact your members of Congress and tell them to support the president’s call for “common-sense gun laws.”
- Contact your senators and express your support of S. 150: Assault Weapons Ban.
- Read Resolution 3426, “Gun Violence” (¶ 490-493), in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church (2012) for guidance.
- Demand a plan from elected officials by writing to your local newspaper.