In recent weeks, the story of one of those daily 32 victims--Trayvon Martin--has gripped our nation. Many Americans are outraged that lawmakers in Florida, doing the bidding of the gun lobby, created the laws that allowed George Zimmerman, a man with an arrest record and a history of violence, to walk the streets of Sanford armed with a loaded hidden gun, and a vigilante mentality of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
How has Congress responded to the Trayvon Martin tragedy? Senators have introduced legislation that would allow people like George Zimmerman to carry their loaded guns on the streets of virtually every community in America, depriving states and local law enforcement of the power to stop them. The bill should be called the “George Zimmerman Armed Vigilante Act." The House has already passed it.
This Friday, April 20 will also mark the 13th anniversary of the tragic shooting at Columbine High School—another reminder that our leaders in Washington have been complicit in enabling our national gun violence epidemic for years. The Columbine killers used guns obtained from “private sales” at gun shows, where no background checks were required to prevent criminals and other prohibited persons from getting guns. It is shameful that 13 years later, federal law still does not require background checks for all gun sales.
Just days ago a poll showed that 91% of Americans (and 94% of Republicans) support requiring background checks on gun sales. But too many politicians on Capitol Hill are listening to the NRA instead of the people they have been elected to represent.
Today will be different. The 32 victims and survivors coming to Washington include a dad who lost his son at Columbine, a student shot at Virginia Tech, a mom who lost her daughter at a mass shooting in a Utah shopping mall, a wife who lost her husband in a neo-Nazi shooting spree outside Chicago, a police officer who was awarded a Medal of Valor for his heroism, and many more.
The 32 are here to speak for all Americans who have seen the NRA’s vision played out on a February night in Sanford, Florida, and have decided that is not the America they want to live in.
They are here to confront the Congressional leaders who are considering forcing states to allow people like George Zimmerman to take their loaded guns into communities everywhere, while doing nothing to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people in the future.
They are here to ask our elected officials simple questions like, “Do you believe a convicted felon, domestic abuser, or terrorist should be able to buy and carry a gun?” And, “Will you commit to stop arming dangerous people?” And they are here to demand answers.
When gun violence tragedies make the national headlines, the gun lobby and the elected officials who do their bidding, typically hide in the shadows, taking solace in the proven fact that, ultimately, the intense focus around even the most horrific tragedies eventually goes away.
The 32 are here to announce that they will not go away. And, driven by their personal losses, they will not stop until Congress does something meaningful to stop arming dangerous people and to prevent others from knowing firsthand the tragedy of gun violence in our nation.
Dan Gross is president of Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.