Congress must pass these gun violence prevention bills, now

Aside from being necessary to save lives and supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, what each of these bills have in common is they will not become law without the U.S. Senate stepping up to do its job.

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Ashbey Beasley, who survived the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, speaks about gun legislation during a press conference on July 27 in Washington, DC.

Ashbey Beasley, who survived the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, speaks about gun legislation during a press conference on July 27 in Washington, DC.

Anna Rose Layden/Getty

Strollers abandoned, parents hiding children in dumpsters, flags covered in blood.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, more than 220 were gunned down and killed in the United States, including the shooting at the Highland Park parade that sent shockwaves throughout the country. This heartbreaking carnage is unique to America — but we can end it if we turn our anger into comprehensive federal gun violence prevention.

We have the majority of gun violence prevention bills we needwritten and ready to go — if only we could act.

If 50% of all of the guns in the U.S. disappeared overnight, we would still have more guns per capita than any other country in the world.To decrease this, we need to pass the Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act introduced by U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., which would remove firearms from circulation by incentivizing people to sell back their firearms through local programs funded by federal grants.

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We’ve also got to do something about the type of guns that cause the most carnage in the shortest amount of time: assault rifles. These weapons killed 60 people in Las Vegas, 26 in Sandy Hook and seven in Highland Park. Any gun that can shoot dozens of people in less than a minute is a weapon of war and should not be available for civilian use. The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 worked, and the U.S. House has reinstated it. Now it’s up to the Senate.

Red flags, background checks

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree we’ve got to get guns out of the hands of the most dangerous. That’s why, after the U.S. averaged at least 1 deadly mass shooting a month in 2018, House Democrats passed legislation supported by 90% of Americans that would establish universal background checks and increase the time a federal firearms licensee must wait while a background check is conducted, closing the loophole that enabled a gunman to obtain the weapon used to murder nine people during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.

But, because 90% of guns involved in crimes are not from retail stores, background checks are far from enough to keep guns out of the hands of the most dangerous. That’s why, after guns killed 10 grocery store shoppers in Buffalo and 21 elementary school children and teachers in Uvalde, the House passed the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, a life-saving red flag law supported by over 70% of Americans to temporarily remove access to firearms for those deemed a danger to themselves or others by a federal court.

Domestic violence gun homicides have leaped 58% over the last decade, with over half of all intimate partner homicides currently committed with guns. Domestic violence is among the strongest predictors of mass shootings. To end this deadly correlation, the House and the Senate must pass the No Guns for Abusers Act of 2021. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., this authorizes the DOJ to make grants for state and local governments to remove firearms from those charged with or convicted of domestic violence.

Helping police, holding gun makers accountable

We must help law enforcement do their jobs to keep our children and families safe from heavily armed civilians. That means we’ve got to pass U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s, D-Calif. Gun Records Restoration and Preservation Act to allow the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to collect, preserve and disclose gun records and tracing data necessary to properly investigate and prevent gun violence to make our communities safer.

It also means giving law enforcement the tools to crack down on gun trafficking and hold irresponsible gun dealers accountable, especially in states like Illinois, where guns trafficked in from across state lines comprise two-thirds of the total number of illegally possessed crime guns. To stop the flow of crime guns,we’ve got to pass into law my Gun Trafficker Detection Act, which would require gun owners to report if their gun is lost or stolen within 48 hours, along with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly’s, D-Ill., House-passed Prevent Gun Trafficking Act, which establishes a stand-alone federal criminal offense for gun trafficking and straw purchasing.

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Despite the mountain of evidence that mass shootings are getting deadlier and more common, a law passed in 2005 still gives the gun industry exclusive immunity from being sued for negligence or product liability in nearly all cases. We need to crack down on reckless gun dealers and manufacturers by passing U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff’s, D-Calif., Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act to repeal their liability shield.

Aside from being both necessary to save lives from gun violence and supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, what each of the actions I just laid out have in common is they will not become law without the U.S. Senate stepping up to do its job.

After Uvalde and Buffalo, I read the names of the 665 children 11-years-old and younger harmed by guns so far this year. So many children that I wasn’t even able to make it through the first page. Today that number is 850.

How many lives will it take before Congress has the courage to act?

Sean Casten is the U.S. representative from Illinois’ 6th Congressional District.

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