Through executive action, President Obama took a crucial step today in addressing America’s gun violence epidemic. His plan will close the gun show loophole and subject every gun sale to a background check, increase funding and oversight of our nation’s mental health care system, expand U.S. Department of Justice outreach to communities impacted by gun violence and encourage the research and development of smart gun technologies. These are sound policies that will have an immediate impact on communities by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous individuals and preventing gun trafficking, while protecting the Second Amendment rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens.
As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust and Co-Chair of the CBC’s Gun Violence Taskforce, I was proud to join President Obama at the White House as he took bold steps to protect American families from the public health threat of gun violence. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. Violent crime costs Americans more than $200 billion a year in increased spending. Though African Americans are just 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 55 percent of gun murder victims. Homicide is the number one cause of death of Black men ages 15-34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and African Americans are more than twice as likely to die from gun violence than white Americans.
Gun violence is a public health epidemic in America — and the African-American community is Ground Zero.
The daily shootings in America’s inner cities are all too frequent reminders of the tragic impact of gun violence on our national well-being. Some studies suggest that repeated exposure to shootings in urban areas is akin to the trauma suffered by soldiers in war zones.
America’s leading physician’s groups have declared that our nation’s gun violence is a public health epidemic that must be addressed.
While today’s executive actions are crucial steps in reducing the senseless gun violence plaguing our nation, they do not absolve Congress of its responsibility to act. There are gaps in existing gun laws that leave us all vulnerable to gun violence, holes that only Congress can plug. With over 30 Americans being killed by a gun every single day, inaction is not an option. Congress has a moral obligation to address the public health epidemic of gun violence in America. We must act now to pass reasonable and responsible gun safety laws to save lives.
I recently introduced two pieces of common sense gun legislation that would complement the President’s executive actions. The first bill, The Recognizing Gun Violence as a Public Health Emergency Act, would require the Surgeon General to submit an annual report to Congress on the public health impact of gun violence. The second, The Firearm Safety Act, would close the loophole that prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from evaluating the safety of firearms. Both bills would give Congress the data it needs to pass meaningful and impactful gun violence prevention legislation, and ensure firearms are as safe and consumer friendly as possible without obstructing the rights of responsible gun owners.
We can and must strike the balance between protecting Second Amendment rights and the right of all Americans to live free from the threat of gun violence. It’s time that Congress show leadership in confronting our gun violence problem. With gun killings on pace to be the primary cause of death for young people 25 and under, the very future of our nation depends on it.