This time last year I attended the State of the Union address with my guest, Richard Martinez, whose son was gunned down during the tragic Isla Vista shooting that rocked our community. Today, I was honored to join Richard Martinez as he stood directly behind President Obama while he announced new actions his administration will take to reduce gun violence.
The President’s plan is a modest but important step to reduce gun violence and protect our communities by strengthening the gun sale background check system and providing the resources necessary for more robust enforcement of existing gun safety laws. It was a meaningful moment where the President, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Richard Martinez, and so many others came together to highlight that we have lost far too many of our loved ones to gun violence and our nation can and must do better.
The executive actions announced by the President today will make significant progress in the ongoing struggle to curb gun violence:
Toughening background checks nationwide: The President’s executive actions provide new guidance on existing federal laws, clarifying that any individual in the business of selling firearms must obtain a license through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and therefore conduct background checks on prospective gun purchasers. These actions also include new measures and resources to make the background check system more efficient and effective.
Protecting communities with bolstered enforcement: The executive actions take new steps to promote smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws – including a proposed increase in funding for more ATF agents, greater resources for tracking illegal online firearms trafficking and strengthened domestic violence outreach efforts.
Improving mental health services: The President is proposing increased investment to expand access to mental health care. Further, the executive actions remove barriers that prevent the reporting of relevant mental health information to the background check system.
Driving new research into gun safety: The executive actions direct the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into new technology to make firearms safer.
While these actions are important efforts to make our nation safer, the President can only do so much on his own. In order to enact the meaningful change we need, Congress must act. Our local community is far too familiar with the pain that comes from senseless gun violence. The tragedy in Isla Vista is a constant reminder of the consequences of inaction. After that experience, our community came together to say Not One More. This cannot and must not be the end of our efforts to end the gun violence epidemic in our country. And make no mistake, it is an epidemic. That is why I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to enact meaningful change and keep our communities safe.
I know this won’t be an easy task. However, we simply cannot accept gun violence in this country as the new normal. I firmly believe that we can both protect our constitutional second amendment rights while also ensuring that guns do not fall into the hands of convicted criminals, domestic abusers, and those who pose a danger to our communities. Again, this is not an easy task, but the stakes are far too great to simply give up.