Commentary: It’s never too soon to confront threat to life

Here’s what Congress can do, now, says U.S. Rep Rick Larsen, to address gun violence.

By Rick Larsen

Imagine this scenario: during an annual physical exam, your doctor turns to you and says, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news. You are really sick.”

Concerned, you ask your doctor what can be done to remedy your illness.

And it is at that point your doctor responds, incredulously, “Isn’t it a little too soon to start talking about a cure?”

In a nutshell, that is today’s gun safety debate in the United States. A massacre occurs, public attention naturally turns to gun violence prevention, and, like clockwork, the gun lobby — led by the NRA — jumps into action, smearing any discussion of how to prevent future atrocities as improper, disrespectful, or even immoral. From where I am standing there is nothing immoral about wanting to stop violence.

But what is immoral is doing nothing about gun violence — which is killing an average of 92 Americans every day. Inaction in the face of a threat that dangerous is negligence that borders on complicity.

While Americans wait for the “right time” to talk about gun safety, more mass shootings will almost certainly occur. Because let’s be clear: what happened in Texas could have happened anywhere. A concert. A school. A night club. And, sadly, it does.

Despite being just 4.43 percent of the world’s population, Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns; and guns kill more than 33,000 Americans each year.

Since 2008, three mass shootings — where four or more victims were murdered with a firearm, as defined by the FBI — have occurred in the 2nd Congressional District:

In 2016, a gunman killed five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington.

In 2014, a student opened fire at Marysville Pilchuck High School, killing four.

In 2008, six people were killed in a Skagit County shooting rampage.

Additionally, a major shooting took place in Mukilteo last year where three young adults were killed and a fourth was seriously injured. And several of my constituents were directly affected by the October 1st shooting in Las Vegas.

Despite these facts, the gun lobby insists that there is never a proper time for a national conversation around gun safety.

But it is always the right time to call out injustice, and I am suggesting several actions Congress can and should take to prevent gun violence:

1. Ban bump-stock devices, used to make semi-automatic rifles function essentially as fully automatic rifles;

2. Reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines above 10 rounds;

3. Lift the ban on federally-funded research into the causes of gun violence, and;

4. Require background checks on all commercial firearms sales and strengthen those background checks, including by extending the period of time investigators have to complete a delayed background check from three to 14 days.

These policies would not prevent every massacre, but would give law enforcement more tools to prevent killings, provide lawmakers with a better understanding of firearm-related homicide and suicide, and limit the breadth and depth of damage would-be killers can inflict.

The gun lobby is wrong: Asking how Congress can save lives is proper, respectful and moral. It is time to be on the right side of history. It is time to take action to prevent gun violence.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Democrat, represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District.

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