In my office in Washington, I keep photos given to me by the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook elementary school next to pictures of my wife and two daughters. Those photos are a searing reminder of the tens of thousands of American lives lost each year by gun violence, and the moral imperative we have to do something about it.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, El Paso and Dayton marked the 250th & 251st mass shootings of the year. That’s not counting the thousands of other acts of gun violence, which are no less damaging to their victims, their families and the communities in which they occur.
By now, it is obvious that our laws are not enough to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make these laws work better. There are evidence-based solutions that, if enacted, would reduce the number of gun deaths in America.
For years, Democrats have argued that we must close the loopholes in our background check system to ensure that individuals prohibited by law from purchasing a gun are unable to do so. Over 90% of Americans support this idea — including a majority of Republicans and a majority of gun owners. Just a few months ago, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would close those loopholes.
The only roadblocks remaining are the Republican Senate and President Trump, whose fealty to the gun lobby stymies progress.
I’ve called on Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bipartisan House-passed background check bill up for a vote in the Senate. In the aftermath of the awful loss of life a few weeks ago, the time is now for McConnell, Senate Republicans and the president to show the kind of political courage they have failed to demonstrate in the past.
After decades of heartbreaking violence and scant progress in Washington, it is easy to be cynical about the prospects for meaningful gun-safety legislation. But 26 years ago, I led the fight to pass the Brady Bill, the first-ever law to institute background checks at the federal level.
Then, like today, we were told to wait. We were told it wouldn’t pass. We were told that any restrictions on guns — even the most sensible protections — were tantamount to trampling on the Second Amendment.
But we didn’t let those voices hold us back. We passed the Brady Bill. And in the years since, more than 3 million illegal gun sales have been stopped. That victory proved that we could do something in this country to make our neighborhoods and our communities safer while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans. If we could do it then, we can do it now.
But back then, there were no online gun sales. It is a simple matter of common sense to update the law to include background checks for online sales. And in those days, the typical gun show involved collectors displaying antique guns. Now, gun shows are a nexus where criminals can buy military-grade weapons.
We must require background checks for all gun sales.
At these critical moments, we cannot resort to half-measures. While I support legislation to expand the use of extreme risk protection orders — so called “red flag” laws — this is not enough. We need to do something comprehensive and meaningful to address gun violence and keep dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands.
My grandson will soon be a year old. Like all parents and grandparents, I don’t want children growing up in a country where mass shootings are the norm. I don’t want my grandson, or any other child, to have to practice hiding under their desk with the lights off at school. I want him and every other child in America to live in a world where our epidemic of gun violence is a thing of the past.
Schumer, a Democrat from New York, is Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate.