In Colorado, we are all too familiar with the tragedy and grief of gun violence.
On April 20, 1999, when two shooters open fired at Columbine High School, one of us sat in his freshman class as his high school was put on lockdown just 10 miles away in Highlands Ranch. One of us left work and had to wait 24 hours to receive confirmation that his only son had been senselessly murdered.
The shooting at Columbine took the life of Daniel Mauser, a 15-year-old sophomore, along with 11 classmates and a teacher.
Columbine shocked Americans, yet not enough to avoid the ushering in of a new era in which mass shootings and daily shootings now seem normal and routine. Each day we lose over 100 people to gun violence, and twice that number suffer gun violence injuries.
We simply cannot allow this to become normal or accepted.
One year ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, bipartisan universal background check legislation, yet one year later the Senate has refused to hold even a hearing, much less a vote on this life-saving legislation. This is cowardice.
Given that over 90% of the population supports universal background checks, it is shameful to ignore their opinion.
On that same day, the House passed H.R. 1112 to provide the background check system with additional time to make a final determination on a firearms purchase, thereby closing the “Charleston Loophole” that allowed Dylan Roof to kill nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Yet, Republicans in the Senate and this president refuse to act, bowing to the gun lobby instead of living, breathing human beings who are asking to be kept safe.
How could we possibly not do everything we can to stop these senseless shootings? How can we remain frozen in inaction?
Our state has taken some of the necessary measures. Colorado voters closed the “gun show loophole” one year after Columbine by an overwhelming margin of 70% to 30%.
Colorado has since passed needed gun violence prevention measures, including universal background checks, a red flag law, laws to keep guns from domestic abusers and a high-capacity magazine ban.
Yet Colorado remains at risk, since most states surrounding it have not passed similar measures. Illegal guns can easily cross state lines, which is why measures must be enacted nationally.
Too often we hear the same excuse for inaction: concern that the rights of law-abiding citizens would be taken away. But what rights are denied in the case of a background check? The right to sell a gun to a criminal or spouse abuser?
The reality is that law-abiding citizens would still be able to purchase a firearm if they pass a background check. The reality is that we all endure protective security steps in airports, courtrooms and workplaces, and it is done for our mutual security.
Our children now grow up in a reality filled with active shooter drills, hard corners, code reds and bulletproof backpacks. Adults are concerned about gun violence in public places like churches, malls and their own workplaces. Nobody wants this to be our normal reality, but change requires strong and brave leadership from Washington.
It is time to put partisan differences aside and act.
We urge the president and the Senate to consider Colorado’s pain, to consider Colorado’s bravery at addressing the gun violence epidemic. We urge them to consider Columbine, Aurora and Highlands Ranch and to pass H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, meaningful reforms to keep our communities safe. To follow Colorado’s example.
Coloradans have waited long enough for federal action, and they cannot wait any longer.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Boulder, represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and grew up in Highlands Ranch. Tom Mauser lost his son Daniel Mauser in the Columbine Shooting in April 1999.
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