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John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri

Too Many Moments of Silence

Families Should Be Able to Seek Gun Restraining Order


Today marks one month since the tragic violence in Isla Vista.

The last few weeks have been challenging for our community, as we come together to try to heal from the violence that left six young, innocent victims dead, with more injured.

It has been a month of vigils and memorials, a month full of graduations and remembrances, and a month full of questions as we look toward the future.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met with parents of victims. I’ve sat down with law enforcement officials and mental health professionals to discuss what happened. I had coffee with UCSB students and community members in Isla Vista to hear their thoughts.

And through it all, I have heard two things — frustration and a demand for action.

Unfortunately, in that same period of time, there have been three more high-profile shootings added to the list of communities affected by gun violence.

Our friends and neighbors in Seattle, in Portland, and in Las Vegas have all witnessed gun violence in their own communities since May 23 — all within the month after the incident in our backyard.

That is not acceptable.

In Washington, we have held moments of silence and passed resolutions on the House floor, important steps to remember the victims of these senseless tragedies, and to condemn this violence. But enough is enough. I am tired of moments of silence; we’ve had too many. It is time to act.

Last week I attended a lunch with my former colleague Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, and her group Americans for Responsible Solutions. I was joined by White House officials, advocates, and several of my colleagues to discuss how we, as women, can lead the fight to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries.

How do we fill the gaps in our laws and systems to address not only the type of gun violence we saw in Isla Vista, but the kind that’s happening day in and day out across the country? Knowing that suicide is a large component of our nation’s gun violence problem, how do we give families another tool in the toolbox if they believe a relative could be harmful to others or themselves?

When examining these difficult questions, I, in concert with my California Senate colleagues Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, wrote the Pause for Safety Act. This important bill would allow families to seek a gun violence prevention order if someone close to them poses a threat to himself, herself, or others. It would also ensure that law enforcement makes full use of all existing state and local gun databases when assessing a tip, warning, or request from a concerned family member or close associate.

There were clear red flags before the Isla Vista rampage. That means we need to make sure our families and law enforcement have the tools to intervene when someone is in crisis.

We also need to address our underfunded and often fractured mental health system, which is why I have joined my colleague from Napa, Representative Mike Thompson, as an original cosponsor of his bill, the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act.

This bill would strengthen our mental health system and improve mental health intervention efforts, help keep guns away from those who should not have them, provide tools to better understand mental illness and the gun violence epidemic, and ensure a fair restoration process of firearm ownership rights.

And while these two bills will address some of the most news-grabbing headlines, we also need to do more to address the violence that doesn’t always make national news but happens on a regular basis — often at the hands of an intimate partner.

When it comes to gun violence, the most dangerous place for a woman in the developed world is the United States, where women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in any other developed countries. And more than three times as many women are murdered by guns used by their intimate partners than are murdered by strangers using a gun, knife, or any other weapon combined.

That is why, last week, I introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act, a bill that would close several loopholes that exist in current federal protections against gun violence for those experiencing domestic violence or stalking.

Closing these loopholes will help protect millions of women and save lives.

Our laws must recognize that an abusive ex-boyfriend with a gun is just as deadly as an abusive ex-husband with a gun.

And our laws must recognize that an abuser under an emergency temporary restraining order is just as dangerous — if not more dangerous — than an abuser under a permanent restraining order. This will protect victims when they are most at risk — when a domestic abuser first learns his victim has left him and is ending the relationship.

And our laws must stop treating stalking convictions differently than other domestic violence crimes. This bill would close these unacceptable loopholes, protecting women when they are most at risk, while ensuring due process for the abuser.

Gun safety and the Second Amendment are not mutually exclusive, and the two can coexist. But we must take action so that everyone from the students in Isla Vista to neighbors at a movie theater in Aurora can walk the streets in peace. Action so that children and college students can learn in educational environments without sitting in fear, and so that men and women who seek help from an abuser can be protected.

We must not allow these tragedies to beget yet more tragedies followed by more moments of silence, and then inaction. We must act now.

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