On Sunday night, Las Vegas, Nevada, a city that is infamous for its nightlife, casinos and entertainment, was brought to a standstill. From the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, a sniper took aim at concert goers — killing over 50 people and wounding hundreds more.
While the horror of that night still rattles many, we must acknowledge the truth: Tragedies like those in Las Vegas and Orlando could occur in almost any city.
Gun violence and mass shootings are on the rise in America’s cities. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, every day 315 people in America are shot — in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.
Unfortunately, lack of political will makes it harder for our local law enforcement to prevent gun violence. Over the period leading up to the assault, the shooter, Stephen Paddock, purchased an arsenal: 42 firearms, including semi-automatic assault rifles converted to automatic, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. But that gun-buying spree raised no red flags, and triggered no law enforcement alerts — a clear indication that our national background check system is broken.
As President Trump said on Monday, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one — and it always has. We call upon the bonds that unite us: our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity.”
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So, just as Congress came together in the aftermath of the greatest terrorist action on American soil to create The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), it is time to for Congress to come together again — in the aftermath of one of the most horrific mass shootings in America — to create a Commission that puts aside politics to find common sense solutions to our nation’s gun violence.
Congress should quickly pass legislation to create The National Commission on Gun Violence in the United States. The Commission should include federal, state, and local officials, gun rights advocates, survivors of gun violence, law enforcement officials, and medical and mental health providers to offer recommendations to reduce gun violence in the United States.
Last year, the National League of Cities (NLC) passed a resolution in support of federal efforts to reduce gun violence. In addition to urging Congress to create the National Commission on Gun Violence in the United States, the resolution called on Congress to pass legislation that would:
- “Prohibit any person from knowingly transferring, purchasing, or attempting or conspiring to purchase or transfer, any firearm or ammunition from licensed or an unlicensed person on behalf of or at the request or demand of a prohibited person, known or unknown;
- Require a fully federally funded and completed background check within a reasonable time frame consistent with state and local laws for all gun sales or transfers, and requires that all unlicensed or private sellers use an FFL or participating law enforcement agency to facilitate a firearms background check through the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) on the purchase or transfer of any firearm to anyone;
- Provide increased funding and assistance to state and local governments to upload standardized real-time data to NICS;
- Provide funding to the Center for Disease Control to conduct comprehensive research to identify the underlying causes that lead to gun violence and mass shooting in communities;
- Provide federal funding for education and training in safe effective handling and secured storage of legal firearms; and
- Provide resources to the Department of Justice to work closely with State and local law enforcement to aggressively target and hold accountable licensed and unlicensed individuals who break the law by knowingly selling or transferring firearms or ammunition to prohibited persons, gun traffickers or straw purchasers.”
While we know there are common sense solutions to reducing gun violence, our divided political climate has made it near impossible keep guns out of the hands of criminals and violent people. Today, that climate must change.
It is time for Members of Congress to put aside their political divisions and come together, as they have done so many times before in the aftermath of national tragedies, and find a solution that works. Congress should take this opportunity to help foster a national dialogue on how we can reduce gun violence in our cities — and keep our communities safe.
About the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @ceanthony50.