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Rep. Charles Rangel Headshot

Standing up to Gun Violence

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The tragic massacre in Tucson, Arizona, last week is a grim reminder of what can happen when political rhetoric spirals out of control. Constant vitriol creates a climate that can turn volatile by the ease in which people have access to dangerous guns. 

My constituents have a special understanding of this tragedy because of the amount of gun violence that has been in my district. In fact, far too many people across our great nation have attended funerals of family members, friends and other loved ones, who have fallen victim to unnecessary shootings in our communities.

Add nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green and 79-year-old Phyllis Schneck, plus Dorothy Morris, Judge John Roll, Dorwan Stoddard and Gabe Zimmerman, to the needlessly long list of those whose bright future or golden years have been cut short by our society's inability to bring about common sense gun control. It calls upon all government leaders to think about the unfortunate consequences that come with some people bearing arms.

Guns kill about 30,000 people every year in America -- the same number of people participating in an entire New York City marathon! The right to bear arms, guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution should be respected, but not without limit and sense of due responsibility. If we truly value life and want others to do the same, then we must protect it accordingly.

Many advocacy groups such as the Harlem Mothers SAVE in my district and the Million Mom March Chapters across the country, together with the Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence, have found successes in giving gun-violence victims a voice calling for stronger gun laws by raising public awareness and lobbying their elected officials. The government, at the local, state, and national level, should reinforce stringent gun control measures that can provide assurance to the people that those who own firearms in their communities will not abuse that privilege.

In the coming weeks, we will find out more about Jared Lee Loughner and how this 22-year-old man got to the point where he willingly took so many innocent lives. It will be time for us to reflect and assess where we've been and where we're headed as a nation. Since the Columbine shootings in 1999, there have been far too many similar instances resulting from gun violence in just the past decade.

As we enter the new year and decade, we should use this as an opportunity to reexamine and tighten our gun control laws to prevent people like Jared Lee Loughner from buying guns.  We should also reinstate the automatic assault weapons ban that allowed Loughner to kill and injure 19 people in just a few minutes.  If not, we would be doing more harm than just eroding our political discourse. We would be dishonoring the fallen of the Tucson shooting, and the mourning families of almost 100 people who are shot by a bullet every day in America.

Let us work together to stop the violence in our society and build an America in which our children can live without fear of getting shot.

Click to listen to Congressman Rangel's statement on gun violence.