Sensible reform no threat to gun ownership

Just recently, the father of 20-year-old Ashley Cowie, who died after suffering an accidental gunshot to the chest at a campus party, traveled to Tallahassee to lobby against and temporarily defeat an effort in the Florida Legislature to allow guns on school grounds and college campuses.

Bold and deeply personal efforts like this one will be needed if we have any hope of coming together to accomplish even the most commonsense reforms. We can vigorously defend the right to bear arms and protect our communities from needless gun violence if we put aside our entrenched partisan positions, take a hard look at where precisely our biggest problems are coming from, and find a way to work together.

Along our southwest border, where gun violence related to the Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people since 2006, the work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been undermined by American gun dealers selling high-power semiautomatic rifles in bulk to smugglers with the worst of intentions. 

We must better trace the origins of illegal guns and weed out the small handful of unethical players responsible for the lion's share of illegal guns flowing into communities across America. I am proud to have joined 40 of my Democratic colleagues to request President Obama alter a rule requiring the reporting of bulk sales of handguns to include AK-47s and other assault weapons. Contrary to the National Rifle Association's claims, such a measure poses no threat to the rights of individual American gun owners and could save thousands of lives.

Likewise, our need for a more advanced, seamless, and up-to-date federal background check system is as plain as day. As President Obama recently wrote, the Tucson shooter was unfit for military service and the college classroom and should have been unfit for gun ownership. We need fewer loopholes for criminals and less red tape for honest Americans, which will improve our ability to catch and stop individuals with red flags from obtaining guns.

In addition to properly enforcing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, it is time to pass legislation introduced by my colleague Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), which would withhold federal money from states that do not submit the required reports to the national database.

Additionally, there is no justification for separate standards based on whether a person purchases a gun at a local store or a large gun show. Both should be required to complete a background check that ensures citizenship and the lack of a violent record or other behavior that poses a threat to society.

Sensible solutions that prevent senseless deaths will not threaten the right to gun ownership in America. Our ability to move forward on reforms should not fall victim to the partisanship that too often paralyzes Congress. These are matters of life and death, and they deserve attention, compromise, and action from our nation's lawmakers.