Gun violence in the United States is a deadly epidemic that we cannot ignore.
As an occasional hunter, I know the right to keep and bear firearms, protected by the Second Amendment, is a fundamental freedom. However, in the face of countless tragedies, including two 16-year-olds who were shot in Wilmington in recent weeks and recent deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Odessa, and Dayton, we need to offer more than thoughts and prayers.
We must take action to keep our communities safe.
It’s clear that we need to enact laws to make it more difficult for deadly weapons to find their way into the wrong hands, and Delawareans — on both sides of the issue — agree.
In a meeting with Moms Demand Action last month in Wilmington, I heard from parents who are confronting the reality of active shooter drills in schools and hearing from their children about how they had to practice hiding in a closet and being quiet.
Over the past year, I’ve met with community leaders who’ve described the systemic trauma embedded in the fabric of their communities because of gun violence. I've also met with many Delawareans who are passionate supporters of the Second Amendment, but who also recognize the need to better enforce existing gun safety laws and pass common-sense new ones.
Our children and our families are scared. They’re ready for — and deserve — action.
Community leaders and law enforcement agencies at the local, county, and state levels are doing what they can — from modernized policing tactics to community-led intervention strategies — but the fact is that this a national problem that requires national change.
The House of Representatives has passed gun safety legislation, but every day, we’re losing momentum as we wait for Republican leadership in the Senate and the White House to do their part. In the last month, they seem to have given up interest altogether, but the time to act is now.
In the Senate, we should pass bipartisan legislation — which has already passed the House of Representatives — to strengthen our background system. We should also pass a bipartisan bill from my colleagues, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal, encouraging states to follow Delaware’s lead and create and enforce “extreme risk protection order” laws. These proposals have built-in due process protections for gun owners while also preventing individuals who should not have firearms from having access to them.
We should pass my bipartisan gun safety bill with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, that would ensure that local authorities are notified if somebody who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm tries to buy a gun.
Right now, in Delaware and the majority of other states, local law enforcement is not notified when somebody fails a federal background check. We should change that, and my bill makes sure that local law enforcement will receive this vital information, period.
In August, the White House and Leader Mitch McConnell said that they were ready to find a way to transform these common-sense, bipartisan bills into a comprehensive gun safety package that would be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
But, we’re still waiting.
We can’t continue to do nothing as we witness tragedy after tragedy in this country through senseless gun violence. Right now, Americans are more informed, motivated, and ready to see us act than ever before.
Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and finally do something to make American families and communities safer.