America can choose peaceful streets over gun carnageon March 23, 2021 at 10:56 pm

America can change.

Lives can be saved.

Relentless gun carnage can be stopped.

It can happen.

Many of us have lived long enough to remember a time when few could imagine people would routinely buckle up in seat belts. Or that drunken drivers would no longer joke about taking the wheel after over-imbibing. Or that smokers wouldn’t puff away wherever and whenever they felt like it.

Yet America changed, just as it did at earlier times in its history when it roused itself to make other important reforms.

It wasn’t easy. It took Herculean efforts by countless individuals over many years to persuade the majority of Americans a better way was possible and to insist on changing the rules.

Now, we must redouble our efforts to create an America where people are safe from gun violence. Where loved ones are not snatched away in a blaze of gunfire. Where children are not killed in their homes by stray bullets. Where entire communities don’t live with the constant fear of where the shooting will happen next. Where flags are not lowered to half-staff after one mass shooting, just after they were raised from the previous one.

Yes, the hurdles appear insurmountable. Too many elected officials put the right to carry guns ahead of community safety. Common-sense gun legislation has failed again and again. The courts have lurched rightward. Red states have an outsized influence in the U.S. Senate.

And, yes, in many ways, we have moved backwards. While other important issues command our attention, gun groups relentlessly attack laws that protect Americans. The concealed and open carry of firearms has spread across the nation. A ban on assault-style weapons was allowed to lapse.

Just a week before Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in which the alleged gunman used an assault-style weapon to kill 10 people, including a police officer, a judge in a lawsuit brought by the NRA blocked Boulder from enforcing its ban on assault-style weapons. The gunman allegedly bought his assault-style weapon just six days before the shooting. In Georgia, the alleged gunman bought his 9mm handgun on the same day of the shootings.

Stricter gun laws could have prevented these shootings.

Selling guns, not saving lives

No one can expect help from gun groups. They didn’t care when a gunman slaughtered 20 children and six adults in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Or when seven women and one man were shot and killed last week at three Georgia spas. Or when 17 were killed in a 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and 58 in a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Or when 15 people were shot, two of them fatally, inside a “pop-up party” in Chicago earlier this month.

They still don’t care.

Instead, gun groups trot out discredited claims that the key to safety is more guns. But Colorado is an open carry and concealed carry state, and that did nothing to save the people in Boulder.

Gun groups are funded by gun manufacturers that are chiefly concerned with selling more firearms. They don’t speak for a majority of Americans.

More than 43,000 Americans were killed by gun-related incidents in 2020. Chicago ended 2020 with 769 homicides as gun violence surged. Firearms continue to be the leading cause of death for Illinois children and teens. Gun sales have soared over the past year. America has more civilian-owned guns than people.

Our country needs a comprehensive package of data-supported laws to reduce gun violence. At the very least, the U.S. Senate should require universal background checks and the closing of the “Charleston loophole,” which allows the sale of a gun if a background check hasn’t been completed in three days. Both passed the House earlier this month. Congress also should ban assault-style weapons and extended ammunition clips.

At a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., demanded “a moment of action. A moment of real caring.” President Joe Biden has indicated he is ready to sign legislation to curb gun violence.

The Illinois Legislature should enact the Ban Illegal [Gun] Ownership bill, which is backed by a long list of law enforcement, violence prevention, health care and faith groups. It will be heard in the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee on Friday.

On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama said, “It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough — because this is a normal we can no longer afford.”

He’s right. Enough is enough.

It won’t be easy, but America can stop the gun violence on its streets.

America can change.

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