Congress closed its eyes in 2015 to the images of bodies and communities devastated by gun violence that flooded our news cycles and endangered our families.
From high-profile shootings in cities like Charleston, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Roanoke and Lafayette, to the fact that guns kill an average of 88 Americans and injure scores more each day, it’s estimated that 30,000 Americans were fatally shot in 2015. And Congress did nothing.
Let me say that again: tens of thousands of Americans were killed by guns in 2015 and our members of Congress—men and women elected to protect their constituents—did nothing but offer us their thoughts and prayers.
As we all know, lawmakers’ thoughts and prayers unaccompanied by action are hollow gestures meant to appease the public while placating the gun lobby.
But now it’s time for thoughts, prayers and action. For three years, Moms Demand Action has been working relentlessly to foment change in statehouses and boardrooms, resulting in momentum that will eventually point Congress in the right direction.
How are we doing this? By taking a page out of the gun lobby’s organizing playbook. Moms are rallying, canvassing, phone banking and voting. We’re taking on the gun lobby at the state level—defeating bad bills and pushing through good bills. We’re showing businesses how to adopt common-sense gun policies to protect customers from gun extremists. Very simply: We’re showing up.
And make no mistake: we are winning.
In 2015, we took our demands straight to the White House and asked president Obama to take executive action to strengthen our gun laws and reduce gun violence.
We shut down the White House switchboard with over 15,000 calls urging the administration to do its part to keep guns out of dangerous hands. We delivered hundreds of thousands of petitions to the president, asking him to bypass Congress to protect American lives. We showed up by the thousands for Orange Walks across the country in December to demonstrate our resolve.
We let the president know that we’re not waiting on Congress to act to prevent gun violence—and neither should he.
And on Tuesday (Jan. 5), the president literally answered the calls of moms, gun violence survivors, community leaders and advocates across the country.
President Obama took action to narrow the “private sale” loophole by targeting high-volume unlicensed sellers. These sellers are disproportionately responsible for fueling the black market of guns that flood our streets and particularly endangers our urban communities.
Of course, gun-lobby-abiding leaders in Congress and confused presidential hopefuls are already well on their way to spreading falsehoods about the administration’s intentions. Yet the president’s moves this week are exactly what such types always request: better enforcement of laws already on the books.
For too long, a vaguely worded law made it easy for unlicensed, high-volume sellers to transfer thousands of guns without background checks–no questions asked. By clarifying what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling firearms, president Obama ensures that high-volume sellers are required to get licenses and conduct criminal background checks on all gun sales. And we know the most effective way to prevent senseless gun violence is by running criminal background checks on all gun sales.
Although this action narrows the background check loophole, the executive action does not close the unlicensed sale loophole by requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales. That’s why we will keep fighting for background checks in statehouses, through ballot measures and in Congress. We will not rest until every gun sale includes a criminal background check.
We saw this week that gun safety advocates are making a difference. Guns are no longer a third-rail issue. The president has demonstrated tremendous leadership. Now we turn to all of our political leaders—particularly those in state legislatures across the country—to take action to close the loopholes that make it easy for dangerous people to get guns.
The new year is starting with significant momentum, but there is more to be done. Moms nationwide are heading to their statehouses. In November, Americans will vote for candidates and ballot measures that will save lives from gun violence. Mark my words, and join the fight: 2016 will be the year of gun safety.