The Time for Debating Is Over -- We Need Action

The Brady Law, named for my husband after he was shot in the 1981 attempt to assassinate President Reagan, required background checks for gun purchases from licensed gun dealers. Most private sales, including those at gun shows, don't require background checks. That's insanity.
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Jim and I want to send our very deepest sympathy to the families in Newtown. Over the years, we've met too many wonderful people because they've been through the worst experience: losing a loved one to gun violence. Along the way, we've also met children who slept in bathtubs to avoid gunfire in their neighborhoods. This has to stop.

Like many, I'm frustrated, sick and angry. We've had enough debates about guns. We need action.

First, let me tell everyone who fears the National Rifle Association (NRA): that group is not omnipotent. I know that group can be defeated. It's not easy. It takes courage, determination -- and leadership. And, leadership has been sadly lacking. Now is the time for President Obama to use his bully pulpit and executive authority. Mayor Bloomberg is right, "This should be his number one agenda. It's also time for Congressional leaders, starting with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker John Boehner, to move beyond the control of the NRA. No more excuses. Let it be noted, I'm referring to the NRA lobby and leaders in Washington, not to the many members across the country who are in favor of common sense solutions to gun violence.

Most Americans don't know how weak our guns laws are. Gun owners aren't licensed. Guns aren't registered. Why not? Because the NRA said so. The Brady Law, named for my husband after he was shot in the 1981 attempt to assassinate President Reagan, required background checks for gun purchases from licensed gun dealers. Most private sales, including those at gun shows, don't require background checks. That's insanity. The background check system needs to be improved to insure that all prohibited purchasers are, in fact, prohibited from obtaining and possessing firearms.

And, yes, we need a real ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and on magazines of more than ten rounds. California's state assault weapon ban should be the model. I'm pleased to learn that California Senator Diane Feinstein has announced she will introduce a similar bill on day one of the new Congress and I have great hope that President Obama will run with it.

I'm sick and tired of hearing the gun lobby tell us there's no such thing as an assault weapon. The Bushmaster assault rifle used in Newtown did exactly what it was designed to do. As the Hartford Courant reported, "The intense violence lasted about 10 minutes. Lanza fired at least three, 30-round magazines with deadly accuracy." The Bushmaster rifle is a weapon of war and has no place in civilian life. Yet, it's easily available in America today.

I'm sick, too, of hearing the gun lobby and the politicians it controls tell us that the only way to make us safer is to carry more guns. It's another lie. My husband, Jim, knows that too well. He was surrounded by the U.S. Secret Service, the best-trained professionals in the world, when he was shot in the head.

Instead of making progress, we've been regressing. For the past several years, too many elected officials have lived in fear of the NRA. As a result, the group has run amok and gotten more extreme, pushing through laws that allow people to carry guns in bars and at colleges. Don't even get me going on their "Stand Your Ground" laws.

This has to end. We have to end it. When Jim and I started to work on the Brady Bill, people told us we were crazy, that the NRA couldn't be defeated. We were fighting conventional wisdom. But, with amazing allies and intense diligence, we succeeded. We held press conferences and protests around the country. Once, our activists carried cut-outs of dead bodies around the Capitol grounds. Some people took issue with our tactics, but lives were at stake.

Back then, we didn't have social media or the internet. Today, everyone can be an activist; we all have to engage if we're going to change our gun laws. Call, email or tweet your members of Congress. Show up at their Town Hall meetings. Don't support representatives who take money from the NRA. Write letters to the editor of your local paper and work to get editorial boards active. Attend a rally or a protest. Lots of events are being organized -- go to one. In addition to the Brady Campaign, I am really heartened to see the active engagement over the past few days of major forces in the progressive movement like DailyKos, CREDO Action, MomsRising and MoveOn. Over the years, I've been inspired by the activism of the LGBT community and the young DREAMers. Their fearlessness can be our model for success.

NRA leaders are hunkered down, fully expecting the American people to move on when the media furor dies down. I implore you not to let that happen this time. In this great nation of ours, six- and seven-year-olds shouldn't be shot multiple times at school. Teachers shouldn't die trying to save them. Frankly, no one should be killed with firearms in the U.S. No one.

For me, and I imagine for many other families impacted by gun violence, there's a sick feeling of deja vu. This is the same conversation we've had for too many years and through too many tragedies. Enough. Now is the time for change.

We're better than this. All of us need to take action to make change happen. We can't be complicit in letting the NRA do this to our country anymore.

Jim and I are moving back to the Washington area and we will be able to see the U.S. Capitol from our living room windows. We'll be keeping our eyes on them every day.

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