The United States is in the midst of a gun violence epidemic. Mass shootings have taken place in elementary schools, in houses of worship and in movie theaters. They make headlines with disturbing regularity and shock our national conscience each time they strike.
But in between these exhaustively reported acts, however, a hundred lives are lost every day to less publicized acts of violence that could have been prevented. The epidemic of senseless gun violence has necessitated mandatory school shooter drills, moved some parents to send their children to school with bulletproof backpacks, and forced houses of worship to hire security guards.
What has our world come to?
The leadership of the National Rifle Association blindly and vigorously blocks common-sense gun reform. Just look at what the organization desperately tried to block in New York this year alone. It opposed comprehensive background checks, “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of individuals exhibiting threatening behavior, and banning bump stocks, which sacrifice accuracy in order to spit out bullets faster.
The bump stock is an attachment that makes it possible for a semi-automatic to mimic the firing motion of fully automatic weapons, firing 400 to 500 rounds per minute. It was infamously used in the Las Vegas concert shooting, and allowed the shooter in that massacre to shoot more than 500 people. He took 58 lives in just minutes.
He bought the bump stock where he lived, on the internet, without a permit, background check or waiting period, for $90.
Instead of supporting common-sense laws, the NRA fights them tooth and nail. It wants to roll back progress we’ve made, and it has brought Washington to a standstill when it comes to guns. Its deep-pocketed fundraising blocks safety reforms that Americans overwhelming support.
Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor expanded background checks for gun purchasers. Do you know who doesn’t? The NRA. Instead, it blocks safeguards from the local level to the federal level.
I disagree with its obstructionism.
That’s why I introduced a bill last week to ban gun raffles in New York. We need fewer weapons of war on the street, not more. We shouldn’t be raffling off firearms or parts for an AR-15. An AR-15, the semiautomatic weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook (school), Parkland (school), Las Vegas (concert), Pittsburgh (synagogue) and Texas (church) shootings. We shouldn’t be celebrating these deadly firearms.
These are weapons of war that were originally intended for military use. They have no place on our streets. In fact, just last week, firearms manufacturer Colt announced that it would suspend production of its popular AR-15 semi-automatic, assault-style rifle for the civilian market. Instead, it said, it would focus on selling it to the military and to law enforcement.
If a major gun manufacturer agrees that we need to get weapons of war off our streets, why doesn’t the NRA agree?
If you can’t raffle off a bottle of wine, why should you be able to raffle off a weapon of war?
I support the Second Amendment. I believe in the right to bear arms. What I do not believe in is an individual amassing a military-size cache of firearms. This is insensible, immoral and unnecessary.
When I ran for State Senate, I promised to address the plague of gun violence in the U.S. I was a staunch supporter of expanded background checks, a red flag law and banning bump stock. These common-sense bills overwhelmingly passed the State Legislature this year, and are now law.
Young people across the country have mobilized to demand better from our government. They are marching, protesting and speaking up to demand the safety of them and their peers. They have helped lead the way to change in Albany.
But we can’t stop. Illegal firearms continue to filter into New York from other states with weak gun safety laws. We’ve made great strides in Albany, but we need comprehensive gun safety laws nationally to stem gun violence. We need Congress to act, but again they’re engaged in delay tactics, paid for by the NRA, and can’t even agree among themselves about which safety measures to support.
Until they do, New York will continue to lead the nation with reforms that protect our children and our community. That includes ending gun raffles once and for all. It’s time to get weapons of war off of our streets.
Jim Gaughran is the state senator representing the 5th District.