While small, incremental change is the harsh reality of enacting any major change in our world today, it is nevertheless frustrating. It can be especially maddening when it comes to preventing violence.
To many of us, making gun violence less easy, less frequent and less deadly is an obvious choice. But it seems like for every step forward, we are pushed back three steps.
While the idea of slow progress on an issue that could mean the difference between life and death is frustrating, we must still recognize the small victories.
A few recent actions have given me hope that perhaps major change is on the horizon.
In December 2018, the Department of Justice published a rule banning bump stocks and other slide fire devices. As we know from the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting, these devices can modify semiautomatic rifles, making them particularly deadly.
This rule was five years in the making. I sent a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2013 asking them to utilize their authority to rescind approval of bump stock accessories that allow certain semiautomatic assault rifles to function as fully automatic weapons.
Despite several legal challenges and a denied request to delay the ban from the U.S. Supreme Court, as of March 26t, bump stocks and similar devices are now federally banned.
That same day, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee held a rare hearing on gun violence prevention, specifically the use of red flag laws, an important tool that 15 states have already enacted in some form.
Essentially, red flag laws provide law enforcement and family members a legal tool to take action when an individual is experiencing extreme mental health issues and presents a danger to themselves and others.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham indicated states should lead the way on this issue, and in fact Colorado has been one of the leaders on this issue, passing its own Extreme Risk Protection Order bill championed by State House Majority Leader Alec Garnett and Representative Tom Sullivan, who lost his son in the Aurora theater shooting.
And in February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the first major gun violence prevention legislation in over two decades. The last major piece of legislation addressing gun violence prevention was the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.
A strong background check system is one of many important pieces necessary to work to prevent gun violence tragedies. Addressing issues of mental health is another important component. It is important to keep individuals who pose a threat and those around them safe as well as ensure adequate mental health services and resources in every community.
While we still have an extraordinary long way to go, this represents some progress. And with every meeting, call, letter, rally — and most importantly, with every election — we continue to push forward.
Nearly 20 years ago, Colorado was forever changed and the issue of gun violence was never looked at the same again. As a state senator representing the abutting district at the time, the Columbine High School shooting left a mark on our community. As many of us did, I vowed to ensure the 13 lives taken that day would not be in vain and to never stop fighting to make our communities safer.
Sadly, despite it being the deadliest shooting in U.S. history at the time, Columbine no longer ranks in the top 10 in terms of mass shootings in this country. Since 1999, we’ve seen far too many acts of violence and mass shootings.
Yet out of every tragedy, we have seen stories of people dedicating their lives to reducing gun violence and providing support and guidance to the families and friends of other gun violence victims.
The survivors of Columbine continue to share their stories, current students at Columbine are using the power of photography to curb gun violence, and students from Parkland have sparked a national conversation on gun violence, engaging a younger audience and putting pressure on elected officials at every level of government.
There’s other hometown heroes like Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, parents of Aurora theater shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, who now spend their days traveling to sites of mass shootings and providing the comfort of someone who truly knows the agony of having someone they love gunned down.
Major change may not be happening all at once, but we are moving. There is progress. As we remember the 20th anniversary of Columbine, let’s recommit to honoring those taken too soon with action, however big or small.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District.
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