by Christopher Wright Durocher, Director of Policy Development and Programming, ACS
A coalition of 88 groups concerned with gun violence in the United States has released an open letter to the elected leaders of America, calling for meaningful legislative action in the wake of the shooting earlier this month in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.
The letter assails Congress for considering two bills that would liberalize gun regulations—one removing restrictions on the sale of firearm silencers and the other effectively nationalizing the most permissive state concealed carry permit laws through federal mandated reciprocity between states. Though the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its gun industry allies defend these measures as commonsense and necessary to meet Second Amendment principles, these bills go far beyond the protections of the Second Amendment the Supreme Court laid out in the seminal case District of Columbia v. Heller.
The letter also calls on elected officials to take demonstrable steps towards ending gun violence through a series of reforms, including universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the repeal of broad legal immunity for the gun industry, and federal funding for gun violence prevention research.
To date, the only measure being widely discussed in response to the Las Vegas shooting is the regulation of so-called bump stocks, devices that use the kickback of a semi-automatic rifle to enable them to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun. While gun violence prevention advocates consider this a necessary step in light of the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock, they believe it is insufficient to address the gun violence epidemic confronting the nation, which goes well beyond mass shootings.
Notably, the advocates address their demands to “American leaders, from the halls of Congress to town council chambers,” implicitly acknowledging that even absent federal action, there is much that state and local leaders can do to address gun violence. For instance, since the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, Congress has failed to take any meaningful steps to address gun violence, but states and cities across the country have passed 180 gun violence prevention laws that expand background checks, increase protections for victims of domestic violence, and limit the availability of certain types of weapons. Currently, seven states, as well as cities like Chicago and Washington, DC, ban assault weapons. Unfortunately, even at the local level, violence prevention efforts are being frustrated. As the recent ACS Issue Brief The Troubling Turn in State Preemption: The Assault on Progressive Cities and How Cities Can Respond, explains, “forty-three states have enacted broad preemption statutes related to firearms and ammunition, with eleven states absolutely preempting all municipal firearm regulations.”
Despite these obstacles, in addressing all of America’s elected leaders, gun violence prevention advocates recognize that meaningful steps to curtail violence require local, state and federal action.
Read the full letter here.