In the wake of the unimaginable tragedy in Connecticut, President Obama's declaration that the nation must "take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this" was welcome if frustratingly vague. There are, however, some specific, proven "meaningful actions" we should look to right away. Here in California, and particularly in Los Angeles, we have common sense solutions that have gone a long way to protecting public safety without undue imposition on anyone's right to bear arms.
We have a ban on assault weapons -- a ban enacted after our own tragic elementary school shooting in 1989 in Stockton, Calif. Meanwhile, the federal assault weapons ban has been allowed to lapse. Since that happened, we have seen mass shootings with guns equipped with high-capacity magazines in a Colorado movie theater, a Seattle coffee house, a shopping mall in Tucson, to name just a few. Semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons are by far the weapons most commonly used in the 62 mass shootings in this country since 1982. Neither of these are weapons are particularly useful for hunters or self-defense. Renewing the federal assault weapons ban is one simple, and immediate step we should take.
The guns used in mass shootings were almost all obtained legally. This means that our laws must change. We must close loopholes to background checks, improve mental health screenings, and we must regulate assault and semi-automatic weapons. We have seen the positive impact of this in California as firearm homicides and suicides by firearms have continued to drop, and we must advocate for it across the nation.
As to the argument that more citizens with guns means greater public safety, the data doesn't lie. More guns mean more homicides. The Harvard Injury Research Center reports a direct connection: states with more guns and looser gun control laws have higher rates of firearm homicide. This is even after accounting for poverty, age, and urbanization. And it doesn't even include the proven impact of accessible firearms to increased rates of suicide. For those who think guns are used primarily by urban criminals on each other, we need look no further than the headlines we are seeing all too often, and too frequently.
Let's start by recognizing that we are not divided on this issue. Gun safety advocates and hardline gun enthusiasts all want to live in a country where children are not shot dead in their classrooms. Maintaining the Second Amendment and protecting our children are not mutually exclusive.
Today is the day to stand up for our children. This cry is being picked up by parents, faith leaders, policymakers, and responsible gun owners. We cannot have another day like Friday on our hearts, on our conscience, on our hands. We must have the courage to take up "the gun issue" and not put it down until we have created a nation that is safer for our children. Which means that we cannot wait another day to begin a national conversation on sensible gun legislation.