Rep. Elijah Cummings
Most Americans already grasp this truth, but it bears repeating. Our families will not be as safe from gun violence as they should be until our National Days of Action for Gun Violence Protection are translated into more effective legislation that better protects us every day of the year.
Reflecting their support by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, Republican House leaders have resisted demands for action by House Democrats and the overwhelming majority of Americans.
“People, not guns, kill people,” the Republicans declare. Yet, they have been unwilling to do what is reasonably required to prevent dangerous people from acquiring the means to terrorize our communities and kill our neighbors.
After 49 dead Americans in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub joined the victims of mass gun violence in Charleston, San Bernardino, Newtown, and too many other American communities, a national consensus for more protective laws was inevitable.
National polling confirms that 92 percent of Americans support expanded, universal and effective background checks for prospective gun purchasers. Moreover, 87 percent of us support keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons and those with severe mental health illnesses — and 85 percent favor preventing people on “terrorist watch lists” from buying a gun.
Even more controversial proposals — like an outright ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition — now gain the support of a 54 percent majority.
I am convinced that this clear and growing national consensus against allowing dangerous people to acquire deadly weapons will remain a lasting force in our national debates.
It is driven by the reality of American children gunned down in their elementary school, the faithful slaughtered in their church, community workers executed at their office gathering, young people murdered in Orlando — and the human slaughter that, increasingly, is occurring in our daily lives.
Consider, if you will, this chilling comparison.
In 2015, 38,300 Americans died in highway fatalities, spurring public demands for safer roads, vehicles and drivers.
By comparison, 32,514 Americans die annually as the result of gun violence — while, here in Baltimore, we suffered more than 300 shooting homicides in 2015 (and another 123 thus far in 2016).
With every funeral, every weeping loved one, every makeshift street corner memorial, my determination to halt (or, at least, limit) this carnage becomes more compelling.
That is why I joined my Democratic colleagues for a 26-hour sit-in on the floor of the United States House of Representatives last month. Our demand was both straight-forward and compelling.
We asked only for an immediate up or down vote on two bipartisan, common sense gun violence prevention bills to help keep guns out of dangerous hands: the bipartisan King-Thompson legislation to expand and strengthen our background check system and the bipartisan ‘No Fly, No Buy’ bill to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.
Despite our effort — and the clear will of the American People — Republican leaders adjourned the House early for the Fourth of July recess, leaving Washington without bringing these bipartisan gun violence prevention bills.
Now, it appears that the American People will see whether the Republican House Members are prepared to support our more extensive “No fly, No buy” proposal — or whether they will seek to placate the nation with a more limited version supported by the NRA.
Whatever the near-term result, I remain confident that our struggle to make our nation a safer place will not be defeated by the arbitrary and irrational actions of the gun lobby and those who do its bidding.
Last week, I joined Representatives Van Hollen, Ruppersberger and Sarbanes, Maryland Attorney General Frosh, Police Commissioner Davis, and Health Commissioner Wen at the Cathedral of the Incarnation for Baltimore’s contribution to the National Day of Action for Commonsense Gun Violence Prevention.
At the request of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and Marylanders for the Prevention of Gun Violence, we were there to show our support for the survivors of gun violence, the families of victims and the faith leaders who have helped to make Maryland a national leader in common-sense gun reform.
“It is time for Republican lawmakers to treat gun violence like the scourge on our country that it is,” I told the assembled Maryland leaders. “The American people have had enough, and so have I.”
We have had enough headlines about lone wolf shooters, enough stories of the tragic deaths of our children, enough fresh memorial balloons on our city streets.
We have had more than enough moments of somber silence — and we will not be silent any longer.
We will march, sit in and organize, as we must, for the safety of our communities until we achieve reasonable and constitutional gun reform.
In the words of Dr. Leana Wen: “… I have no doubt that gun violence is a public health crisis. Yet, unlike so many medical ailments that do not have a cure or a vaccine, with gun violence, we have the power to make change, prevent injury, and save lives.”
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.