Never Too Soon to Prevent Gun Violence A column by U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen

— from U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen —

Imagine this scenario: during an annual physical exam, your doctor turns to you and says, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news. You are really sick.”

Concerned, you ask your doctor what can be done to remedy your illness.

And it is at that point your doctor responds, incredulously, “isn’t it a little too soon to start talking about a cure?”

In a nutshell, that is today’s gun safety debate in the United States. A massacre occurs, public attention naturally turns to gun violence prevention, and, like clockwork, the gun lobby – led by the NRA – jumps into action, smearing any discussion of how to prevent future atrocities as improper, disrespectful, or even immoral.

From where I am standing there is nothing immoral about wanting to stop violence.

But what is immoral is doing nothing about gun violence – which is killing 93 Americans every day. Inaction in the face of a threat that dangerous is negligence that borders on complicity.

While Americans wait for the “right time” to talk about gun safety, more mass shootings will almost certainly occur. Because let’s be clear: what happened in Las Vegas could have happened anywhere. A school. A night club. And, sadly, it does.

Despite being just 4.43 percent of the world’s population, Americans have 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns; and guns kill more than 33,000 Americans each year.

But what is immoral is doing nothing about gun violence  

Since 2008, three mass shootings have occurred in the Congressional District I represent alone:

In 2016, a gunman killed five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington.

In 2014, a student opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, killing four.

In 2008, six people were killed in a Skagit County shooting spree.

And some of my constituents were affected by the October 1st shooting in Las Vegas.

Despite these facts, the gun lobby insists that there is never a proper time for a national conversation around gun safety.

But it is always the right time to call out injustice, and I am suggesting several actions Congress can and should take to prevent gun violence:

  1. Ban bump-stock devices, which the Las Vegas shooter used to make semi-automatic rifles function essentially as fully automatic rifles;
  2. Reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines above 10 rounds;
  3. Lift the ban on federally-funded research into the causes of gun violence, and;
  4. Strengthen background checks, including by extending the period of time investigators have to complete a delayed background check from three to 14 days.

These policies would not prevent every massacre, but they would give law enforcement more tools to prevent killings, provide lawmakers with a better understanding of firearm-related homicide and suicide, and limit the breadth and depth of damage would-be killers can inflict.

The gun lobby is wrong: asking how Congress can save lives is proper, respectful, and moral. It is time to be on the right side of history. It is time to take action to prevent gun violence.

U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District.

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Never Too Soon to Prevent Gun Violence A column by U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen — 4 Comments

  1. There are no laws in place, and no laws that could be written and passed, which would ever do anything to stop murderous violence.
    Murderous violence is the product of a sick mind, and in a free society there is no way of preventing someone with a sick mind from perpetrating that violence.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with guns.
    If guns are not available, other weapons will be used instead.
    The Las Vegas shooter had fertilizer-bomb material at the ready, and it was only a quirk of fate that turned him to using guns, rather than setting off a bomb.
    One wonders what Rick would now be writing, had the guy actually used his bomb instead of guns.

    It is all very well to “preach to the choir,” as Rick is doing here, since San Juan County is a hotbed of Progressivism, but the reality is that there is nothing that a truly free nation can do to preclude asocial and amoral behavior.
    The only real solution might be found in a Fascist- or Soviet-style dictatorship. But then, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who will police the police?)
    As Franklin pointed out, if you give up some freedom to achieve some safety, you end up with neither.

    And, by the way, the “93 Americans killed by gun-violence every day” is something of a phony statistic, since most of those killings are the result of gang warfare and drug dealing, and, yes, even a few suicides.
    Absent guns, they’d be knife killings, or baseball-bat killings, or axe-murders, or something like that. Bad people do bad things with whatever is handy at the time.
    Guns, per se, have nothing whatever to do with it. It’s not a gun problem. It’s a violence problem.

  2. Mr. Henigson,
    Interesting you should quote Ben Franklin to support your opinion. There is no argument that Ben Franklin was brilliant and is so often quoted. This time of year, students in 4th and 5th grade will just be learning about our founding fathers, our constitution and those same students may one day interpret the 2nd amendment as you do or perhaps differently. Of course there will be 20 less 4th and 5th graders in Newtown who will never get the chance to learn so I’ll speak on their behalf: Assault weapons and the stock piling of them are a detriment to public safety just as nuclear weapons are a detriment to the safety of the world! Period!
    The exact quotation, which is from a letter that Franklin is believed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, reads, those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    Franklin was writing about a tax dispute between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the family of the Penns, the proprietary family of the Pennsylvania colony who ruled it from afar. And the legislature was trying to tax the Penn family lands to pay for frontier defense during the French and Indian War. And the Penn family kept instructing the governor to veto. Franklin felt that this was a great affront to the ability of the legislature to govern. And so he actually meant purchase a little temporary safety very literally. The Penn family was trying to give a lump sum of money in exchange for the General Assembly’s acknowledging that it did not have the authority to tax it.

    So far from being a pro-privacy quotation, if anything, it’s a pro-taxation and pro-defense spending quotation.

    It is a quotation that defends the authority of a legislature to govern in the interests of collective security. It means, in context, not quite the opposite of what it’s almost always quoted as saying but much closer to the opposite than to the thing that people think it means.

  3. Just once, I wish a political leader would look at the individual(s) who commit these violent acts towards their fellow person. Most of these people have some type of mental health crisis going on in their life. They should consider the violent video games & movies our kids are playing and or watching. Hollywood makes these violent movies knowing the audience they are going to attract will be younger, easily influenced by the vehemence. Studies completed on young children while playing video games such as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty show kids getting negatively stimulated or a “high” while playing these types of games or watching violent shows. These depict the firearm as the supreme killing weapon. There’s a good book titled “Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill” written by Lt. Col Dave Grossman. Our Political leaders should read it sometime.

    Now here comes my opinion, which we are all allowed to have. Why punish those who are responsible firearm owners those who use semi-automatic rifles in a shooting sport commonly known as 3-gun shoot, in this sport people use there AR-15, a semi auto shotgun along with a semi auto pistol and go through a stringent course of fire.

    There is no such thing as an “Assault Weapon or an Assault Rifle” just stick to calling them semi-automatic firearms. The only thing assault about them is the violent power, which is dramality displayed in Hollywood films and erroneously portrayed by the media.

    Our Nation already has strict firearms laws in effect. However, for them to be effective there must be due diligent in enforcement of current laws or they don’t work. Look at Chicago and the violence there. Look at other large firearm banned cities. Bad, sick or evil people will still get a firearm no matter what the laws are and will cause violence no matter what. Banning these types of firearms and accessories will only prevent the good guys from having access to them, when their life or their loved ones may depend on having such protection. As Senator Jim Webb stated in the first Democratic Presidential debate ‘There are some people up here on stage tonight who have armed 24-hour security” Why can’t the American Citizen protect themselves or their loved ones”

    Our political leaders might be surprised to know that there are equal amounts of responsible firearms owners in our nation. There are a lot of individuals who don’t agree on politics. However, when you go to a gun range those individuals are enjoying themselves, talking to one another and being responsible. Not only with their firearm safety but being respectful to their fellow firearm owners’ no matter their political differences.

    I would hope that Mr. Larson along with Mr. Ranker checkout all the actual stats on firearms violence along with considering the influence of violent video games/movies before blaming the firearm. The firearm is a tool, it doesn’t commit the act of violence the person squeezing the trigger commits the acts of violence. I doubt Mr. Ranker will budge on this issue as I have personally asked to sit down over coffee with him to discuss such issues.
    There are way more responsible gun owners in America

  4. Thank you, Rep. Larsen.

    If you walk to the top of a hill near my house, you can see across an international boundary to a country where the murder rate is roughly 20% of ours in the USA. Canada also strictly regulates firearm possession (strictly in comparison with the US, at least). Those two facts are not unconnected. Crime rates are not that different between the two countries – your chance of getting burgled or mugged is not that different between BC and WA. But your chance of surviving such an event in BC is significantly greater, for a single reason: with fewer guns in circulation, less lethal weapons get used. Note that BC has a very active hunting culture, and sends Olympic-class target shooters to international competitions from time to time. Gun regulation and shooting sports are not incompatible.

    Canada is far from unique – indeed, we are unique, in having by far the highest murder rate amongst industrial democracies. You may regard this fact as the outcome of a huge social science experiment, with an N of about 800 million and statistical power out the wazoo. It’s really simple: fewer guns, less murder, mass and otherwise. Also less suicide – 2/3 of the gun deaths here every year are suicides. Suicides are often impulsive, and one’s chances of changing one’s mind after slitting one’s wrist are a great deal larger than after blowing one’s brains out.

    This sounds brutal, but so is the reality. I am very grateful to Rep. Larsen for making a strong statement in favor of widely supported, sensible gun control measures. Every measure he mentions has wide majority support in every poll. The failure to enact such measures at the Federal level is a failure of democracy. I will strongly support Rep. Larsen and all other politicians with the courage to actually represent their constituents.

    Eventually it will be necessary to go well beyond what Rep. Larsen proposes. Most gun murders and suicides are committed with handguns, not with “assault weapons” (a poorly defined subclass of semiautomatic rifles). To achieve a reduction of gun violence towards the international norm, the US will eventually need to restrict the possession of all anti-personnel weapons, meaning all handguns and all semiautomatics of any description, bringing the lot under the purview of an amended National Firearms Act. We are a long way from doing any such thing, as you might guess from some of the other comments, however we can make a start in the right direction by restoring majority rule, as a majority is solidly in favor of better gun control.