04/05/2013 12:28 am ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

Reducing Gun Violence Means Standing Up to the Gun Lobby

As Congress prepares to consider legislation to address gun violence, this week was a disturbing reminder to those of us leading that fight that after all these years the gun lobby will rely on its playbook of personal destruction to viciously attack any supporter of common-sense gun safety legislation. As I've learned in two decades of work on these issues, the gun lobby will take every opportunity to intimidate, and to attempt to silence, anyone with the courage of conviction to stand up and fight to keep our families safe.

This week, the founder of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association, Dudley Brown, told NPR that it was "time to hunt Democrats." Brown, a leading voice against gun violence prevention, apparently sees nothing wrong with physically threatening the lives of members of the political party with whom he disagrees. It may be straight out of the playbook the gun lobby has used for decades, but that makes it no less outrageous.

In Colorado, we saw the ugliness of these attacks just last month when state Representative Rhonda Fields was personally maligned and threatened as she pursued meaningful gun violence prevention in the Statehouse. Rep. Fields is not only a tireless advocate, she is the mother of a child gunned down by an assault weapon. But that only fueled the gun lobby's efforts; efforts so personal, they eventually led to physical threats to Rep. Fields by a man now standing trial for those threats. Ultimately, however, the smear campaign was fruitless, as Rep. Fields and her colleagues passed landmark legislation that will help keep families safe.

Now the gun lobby has set its sights on me.

Since my time in the Colorado state legislature 20 years ago, I have worked on gun safety issues. In 1998, I introduced my first bill to ban high-capacity magazines. My colleague Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4) and I have introduced a similar bill, the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, in this Congress. We are working hard to include our bill in comprehensive gun safety legislation being considered now because, while we will never be able to stop every disturbed individual from going into a school or a movie theater or a shopping mall and shooting people, we can limit the number of rounds in a magazine and give the people in their sights a fighting chance.

Rather than debate me on the merits of this common-sense proposal, the gun lobby has decided to distort remarks I made at a recent forum in Denver to attack me personally. After the forum, opponents of my bill intentionally mischaracterized one phrase from my remarks, spreading half-truths to mobilize their on-line allies. This is what they do and what they have done for decades to distract the public conversation from the critical issue of reducing gun violence. And this week they employed these tactics to undermine my high-capacity magazine ban.

The gun lobby wants to divert the public's attention from the fact that a high-capacity magazine ban would reduce the number of magazines in circulation, simply because they would no longer be available for lawful purchase. If Congress passed a high-capacity magazine ban, disturbed individuals like the Aurora shooter would not be able to purchase a 100-round magazine through a few clicks on a website, or buy a 30-round magazine at their local sporting goods store.

While those who currently own high-capacity magazines would be able to keep them and use them if they wished, they would not be able to purchase new high-capacity magazines. The availability of these assault magazines to criminals and the mentally ill would thus be greatly reduced over time.

A high-capacity magazine ban will not stop an individual intent upon doing harm, but would give those victims in their sights a fighting chance when the gunman has to stop and reload. As an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agent with whom I work frequently says, "a high-capacity magazine ban would go a long way to taking the 'mass' out of 'mass shooting'."

That's why this bill is so important and that's why the gun lobby is fighting it so hard. As poll numbers continue to show strong public support for a high-capacity magazine ban, and for universal background checks, the gun lobby strengthens and magnifies its efforts to intimidate and ultimately to silence anyone who threatens their cause. We've seen it again and again.

This debate is not about me or the other lawmakers who've faced the same tactics. This debate is about the thousands of children and families who are the victims of gun violence every year -- the 58 people injured and the 12 killed in an Aurora theater, the 20 children and six brave adults in a school in Connecticut, and the countless other faces whose names we do not know.

The high-capacity magazine ban is a reasonable and common-sense step towards preventing these massacres. That is why I am urging all of you who support this and other gun violence prevention measures to stand up to the gun lobby. They may utilize smear tactics or scare tactics, but by raising our voices in any way we can, we can show them we will not allow their attacks to distract from the real issues. Please contact your Member of Congress today and urge them to vote for common-sense gun safety legislation. Together, we can stand up to their efforts.

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