Posted Mar 16, 2018 at 6:00 AM
Over the past few weeks, students across the country have called for reasonable measures to make our communities and schools safer. These students, including many right here in Bucks County, continued their leadership by holding walkouts and marches in support of their cause. Their message is simple: It’s time to do something meaningful about gun violence.
As a citizen and former teacher, I’m proud to see these young people embrace their civic duty and commit themselves to changing things for the better. As a father, however, I’m angered that we adults have left our children to fight for their own safety and security.
Nearly 100 people are killed with a gun every day in the United States. The number of mass shootings have risen over the past 10 years. And on an average day, seven children and teens are shot and killed.
We have a gun violence epidemic in this country — plain and simple. Our children know it, and they are fed up. It’s beyond time that we adults also acknowledge it and demand that anyone who holds, or seeks to hold, public office tell us plainly what their solutions are to this pressing national problem.
Soon after the heartbreaking tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I vowed to be an advocate for common sense laws to stop and prevent gun violence.
As a state representative at that time, I proposed and supported several pieces of legislation to strengthen gun safety laws while also respecting the constitutional rights of all Pennsylvanians to bear arms.
In an effort to seek common ground, I consulted with all sides in the debate to forge a solution that everyone could live with. I quickly realized, however, that the National Rifle Association and its supporters were not interested in compromise. They, and the politicians who do their bidding, were only interested in obstruction.
For example, the Republican leaders of the state House refused to hold hearings let alone a vote on legislation like my bill to close the background check loophole in Pennsylvania. Instead, they passed a law, which later was struck down by the courts, to allow the NRA to sue our towns when they passed reasonable ordinances, like the one in Lower Makefield that prohibited carrying guns in playgrounds.
As our children are showing us, it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many causes to this epidemic, and no one law will stop it. But preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands has to be one of our primary goals.
To that end, I have proposed five pieces of legislation to address this issue. Universal background checks and a court process to allow for the issuance of Gun Violence Restraining Orders are two effective common sense proposals. Additionally, we should adopt a “No Fly, No Buy” rule that prohibits terrorists from buying firearms; a “Lost and Stolen” rule that requires gun-owners to report lost or stolen firearms; and a ban on military-style assault weapons coupled with a voluntary buy-back program.
Our children are right. It’s time that we finally act. No more excuses, and no more vague statements by elected officials. I challenge all federal and state officials to state with a simple yes or no as to whether they support these measures.
Steve Santarsiero is a former state representative and the current Democratic candidate for State Senate in the 10th District.