Saturday, April 21, 2018
Perspective

Perspective: Now is exactly the right time to talk about gun politics

Sunday night started out as a beautiful evening in Las Vegas, with country music in the air and the lights of the Strip mingling with stars. At least 59 people lost their lives at such a uniquely American scene, and more than 500 were injured. Thousands more will fight emotional scars, and tens of thousands will grieve and question along with them. The phenomena of the mass shooting — and the political paralysis that follows us — is sadly also a uniquely American scene.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than people in other developed nations. More than 100,000 people are shot each year, 33,000 of those fatally.

We can offer thoughts and prayers and move on through life, numb to these losses. We can accept this galling reality.

We can assume that other people — like my wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — will pay the price for our status quo.

We can accept the enormous social, moral and economic cost imposed by accepting gun violence as simply the cost of living in America.

Or we can choose courage instead of cowardice. I flew combat missions in Operation Desert Storm, orbited the Earth 854 times as a NASA astronaut and wake up every morning next to Gabby, the toughest human I've ever met. I choose courage every time. So what do we do?

First, we must recognize just how entrenched the problem is. Until this last shooting, Congress was actually pursuing looser gun laws. Now, even the NRA — and a bipartisan group in Congress — is at least considering restrictions on "bump stocks" like the ones used by the Las Vegas shooter to create nearly automatic weapon rates of fire.

Even on our toughest days, Gabby and I are optimists. And if we want to make our country safer, we can't just work to defeat bad legislation like federally mandated concealed carry and the deregulation of silencers. We also need to push for solutions, to pass good legislation that keeps extremely deadly weapons out of the wrong hands.

That means we need to demand leadership from the people who are elected to lead.

Americans need more than President Donald Trump's prayers — we need his plans. We need a Congress that will stand up to the special interests, look at the research and act to save lives. Public safety must be our top priority. Predictable as clockwork, though, the refrain we all know came immediately on Monday: It's too soon. It's not the right time to talk about politics. It's what people told me after Gabby was injured, and something I've said myself in the past.

Not the right time to talk about politics? Gabby and I have come to reject this. Every day of her life since the shooting, Gabby has honored those hurt and killed alongside her by working to enact policies that will prevent others from experiencing this terrible pain.

Don't let anyone tell you not to talk about politics when we talk about guns. Gabby got into politics because she wanted to govern. The people we elect can take us backward, condemning us to many more days when we wake up to more carnage and more lives lost — or if we make them, they will take us forward, toward a safer country.

No one gun law will prevent every shooting, but we know that these policies will work to reduce gun violence and save lives. We can't only react to the horror of what unfolded in Las Vegas; we must work to make all American communities safer from gun violence. Here are a few things our leaders can and should do today that will keep America safer:

• Pass universal background checks to make sure everyone gets a background check before they obtain a gun. The studies are clear: Where these laws are passed, fewer people get shot. Where they have been repealed, murder and violence have increased. And background checks aren't controversial: a recent poll found that 94 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buyers, including 93 percent of Republicans.

• Subject the sale of the most lethal weapons to stronger oversight and regulation. You can buy an AR-15 in a parking lot with no background check at all. That's insane.

• Require guns to be safely secured in the homes of gun owners, so kids can't get their hands on them.

• Stop domestic abusers from getting guns. Women are too often killed by abusers with firearms. And most mass shootings start as domestic violence incidents.

• Allow restraining orders to stop folks in crisis from accessing firearms, just as we do with domestic abusers.

• Establish a federal firearms-trafficking statute to stop the illegal trafficking of guns from states with weak laws to states with strong laws.

• Require the Centers for Disease Control and our public health agencies to invest in preventing gun deaths and injuries — as we do for every other similar cause of death and injury. For 20 years, Congress has effectively banned the study of gun violence due to pressure from the gun lobby.

• And as a first step, Congress should establish a special bipartisan commission to come together around solutions that will save lives. The truth is policy solutions that reduce gun violence are not controversial — they are broadly supported by Democrats, Republicans and gun owners. Now is the time for members of Congress to listen to their constituents.

This could finally be a heroic moment of progress for our elected leaders. But it would mean looking into the face of deep-pocketed special interests and saying: Today, we're choosing Americans. It means channeling the bravery and determination of first responders in places like Las Vegas, and the bravery and determination of people like Gabby, who fight through the emotional and physical pain of gun violence every day. Thoughts and prayers are important. But thoughts and prayers won't stop the next shooting. Only courage and leadership will save us.

Mark Kelly is a Navy combat veteran, retired NASA astronaut and co-founder with his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, of Americans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman, is a survivor of the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

© 2017 Washington Post

Comments
Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

In 2016, as the director of the FBI, James Comey publicly dissected Hillary Clintonís email server controversy. Later, we learned that Comey was keeping to himself the beginnings of an investigation into Russiaís active interference in the U.S. elect...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Column: Why the Starbucks racial bias training is more than just good PR

Column: Why the Starbucks racial bias training is more than just good PR

Starbucks isnít really in the coffee business. Weíve known that for over a decade. McDonaldís coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks, but that hasnít done any harm to the coffee shopís bottom line. Thatís because what people are paying for when ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18

"ISNíT EVEN A 1,"is how Michael Cohen, President Donald Trumpís personal lawyer and close friend, would rate on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is fully protecting the president. Thatís how one of Trumpís longtime legal advisers, Jay Goldberg, says he...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition will hope to find a path across Interstate 4 for wildlife

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition will hope to find a path across Interstate 4 for wildlife

n two expeditions, three friends and trailblazing conservationists have already trekked more than 2,000 miles through wildlands crisscrossing the state to prove the viability of a Florida Wildlife Corridor, a network of the best remaining connected w...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/14/18
A Little Perspective: Interesting news and notes from around the world

A Little Perspective: Interesting news and notes from around the world

THE QUIZ: Four cards are laid in front of you, each of which has a letter on one side and a number on the other. The sides that you see read E, 2, 5 and F. Your task is to turn over only those cards that could decisively prove the truth or falsity of...
Published: 04/12/18
Updated: 04/20/18
PolitiFact: A closer look at attorney-client privilege after raid of Donald Trumpís lawyer

PolitiFact: A closer look at attorney-client privilege after raid of Donald Trumpís lawyer

President Donald Trump lashed out after the FBI seized business records, emails and tax documents belonging to his personal attorney Michael Cohen.Law enforcement executed warrants on Cohenís Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of an invest...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Smith: Adam Putnam knows Florida, but that might not be enough today to become governor

Smith: Adam Putnam knows Florida, but that might not be enough today to become governor

Here is a little secret among reporters who regularly interact with Gov. Rick Scott:Reporters know it rarely matters if they happen to miss one of the governorís periodic and brief question and answer sessions. He almost never says anything.How shou...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Crystals may have helped Vikings sail to Greenland

Crystals may have helped Vikings sail to Greenland

When the Vikings left the familiar fjords of Norway for icy, uncharted territories, they were at the mercy of weather. They had no magnetic compasses and no way to ward off stretches of heavy clouds or fog that made it difficult to navigate by sun. H...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Perspective: A simple two-step plan to solve Floridaís opioid crisis

Even as Floridaís opioid crisis devastates families around the state, there are real, viable solutions that could curb this epidemic, substantially reduce the cascading number of deaths and provide necessary and appropriate treatment for those addict...
Updated one month ago
PolitiFact: Does the spending billís gun research line nullify the Dickey amendment?

PolitiFact: Does the spending billís gun research line nullify the Dickey amendment?

One of the hurdles in the gun policy debate is a lack of hard data. Tucked in the just-passed $1.3 trillion spending package is a single sentence that its authors say points the country in a new direction.The guts of the text come down to this: "The ...
Updated one month ago