The shooting in Tucson, Arizona has affected our entire country. In the days since, as we have prayed for the victims and survivors, we have also reflected on the lessons we might learn.
Yesterday, again, many of us contemplated the tragedy of gun violence as we came together to mark the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion of peace who was taken from us by a gun assassin.
Mass shootings and assassinations are shocking, and the sad truth is that America's history of gun murders is as repetitive as it is tragic. And what's more, much of its enormous toll never makes it into the national headlines: 34 Americans are murdered with guns each and every day.
As we remember those we have lost, we know that honoring their memory requires renewing our effort to overcome the threat of guns in the wrong hands. The aftermath of this tragedy is our nation's chance to challenge old assumptions about the politics of guns in this country.
One of the major old assumptions in the media and in Washington is that the gun issue is one that hopelessly divides Americans: Red versus Blue, urban versus rural, gun-owners versus those who don't own guns.
But a new poll shows a remarkable consensus among Americans on gun issues. The poll, conducted jointly by a Democratic and Republican polling firm, was released today by the bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Among its key findings:
- Americans overwhelmingly believe the Second Amendment protects the rights of law-abding individuals to buy guns: 79% of Americans believe that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns and only 17% would support a proposal to ban all handgun sales.
- Americans overwhelmingly believe that felons, drug abusers, and the mentally ill should not have access to guns and that more needs to be done to ensure that their records are in the federal background check system: 90% of Americans and 90% of gun owners support fixing gaps in government databases that are meant to prevent the mentally ill, drug abusers and others from buying guns. Likewise, 89% of Americans and 89% of gun owners support full funding of the law a unanimous Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed after the Virginia Tech massacre to put more records in the background check database.
- Americans overwhelmingly believe that its time to close the loopholes that make it possible for people to buy guns without background checks: 86% of Americans and 81% of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.
It turns out there is a broad consensus on guns in America. Just consider that in less than five years, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown to include more than 550 mayors from across the country. We have come together around a simple idea: it's possible to respects the rights of responsible, law-abiding Americans and do more to keep guns from criminals, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people.
It is the job of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns to alert Washington that the conventional wisdom about guns is just not true.
Washington: are you listening?