Ending Gun Violence Complacency

Today marks four years since my friend and colleague Gabby Giffords, and 18 other people, were shot in a senseless act of violence that claimed six innocent lives. The somber occasion comes just weeks after NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were assassinated in cold blood while on patrol in Brooklyn. Both men left their families that morning to serve and protect the people of New York, not knowing they would never return. My heart breaks for both men, for their loved ones whose lives have a void that can never be filled, and over what it means for our society that incidents of gun violence -- often times completely preventable -- continue to extinguish lives and shatter families.

Officers Liu and Ramos were public servants, and they deserve to be honored for the communities they kept safe, and for the sacrifices they made. But we owe them more than memorials; we owe them our sincere efforts to make sure the senseless violence that claimed their lives won't claim others. We owe their wives and children, suffering through unimaginable grief, the assurance that their pain won't needlessly be felt by others, too.

Sadly, those who call for action to prevent gun violence are often times accused of exploiting a tragedy. It has somehow become acceptable to many of my colleagues to simply express condolences and repeat tired excuses for inaction like "we can't legislate away crazy," or "guns don't kill people, people do." Meanwhile, their intransigence allows the violence to continue as the roots of this problem are ignored.

The fact is you don't need to "legislate away" crazy if you ensure that those who shouldn't have guns can't get them in the first place. Gun violence is a societal problem threatening every American, and politicians are elected to solve society's problems. Victims and their families deserve better from elected officials than hollow condolences. The American people should expect more from their leaders than excuses on why they refuse to lead.

The families of Officers Liu and Ramos -- and all families impacted by gun violence -- have my sympathies and my condolences. But just as important, they have my word that I will fight to curb gun violence. As the 114th Congress convenes, I urge my colleagues to do right by those who sent them here, and address this problem facing every one of their constituents. There is no excuse for us not to pass universal background checks and to close gun show loopholes. We should invest more in mental health programs, and make sure that instruments of war like high capacity magazines aren't used on our streets. These are common sense steps that will save lives, and ensure that we honor the memories of those who have fallen. Congress should pass them right away.