In less than a week, two disturbed gunmen used military-style assault weapons to murder 12 people in America - first in Omaha, then in Colorado.
These shootings continue a long trail of carnage that included the Virginia Tech campus eight months ago. The shooter there used semi-automatic pistols and high-capacity ammunition magazines to fire almost 175 rounds [pdf] in about ten minutes. He shot 49 people and killed 32 in the worst mass-shooting in modern American history.
All this violence and bloodshed calls out for decisive action, but too many of our nation's leaders have turned a deaf ear.
In almost two weeks from now, the first votes will be cast in the 2008 presidential election as part of caucuses across the state of Iowa. Homes, church basements and community centers will play host to thousands of committed citizens who will stand in front of their neighbors and openly make their choice for President.
Iowans will stand up and be counted. Today, I challenge the Presidential candidates to do the same.
I challenge them to stand up and support meaningful action to reduce gun violence in America.
- I challenge them to work for a strong and permanent ban on military-style assault weapons [pdf]. Why do we allow weapons of war on our streets which make it easier to kill more people, more quickly? This is America, not Iraq. Restricting assault weapons has been favored in this country for many years, by margins of greater than 2 to 1 [pdf]. The Omaha shooter apparently got his AK-47 from a closet at his step-father's house. Why was that weapon there and easily available to this disturbed 19-year-old?
- I challenge the candidates to support the NICS Improvement Act of 2007. The Virginia Tech shooter was able to buy his guns because Virginia didn't put his information in the system used to check gun buyers. We should do all we can to encourage states to supply records of the dangerously mentally ill and other "prohibited purchasers" (felons, domestic abusers, etc.) to the Brady background check system. Now is the time to pass this bill and send it to the President for his signature.
- I challenge the candidates to support the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007. We can close the "terror gap" in this country that allows a suspected terrorist to walk out of a gun store fully armed. This is basic common sense. It's harder to get on an airline than it is to buy a gun for these individuals.
- I challenge the candidates to support legislation to require background checks for all gun sales in America. People like the Columbine killers and drug gangsters get their guns from so-called "private sellers" at gun shows. If we agree that felons and other dangerous people shouldn't be able to buy guns, then this loophole must be closed.
- I challenge the candidates to support legislation to limit bulk purchases of guns. Gun traffickers take advantage of weak laws to buy unlimited quantities of handguns, which they sell in the illegal market to criminals who terrorize too many of our communities. Let's cut into the illegal gun trade to protect ourselves and our police [pdf].
Our weak national gun laws have helped lead to unnecessary suffering. I challenge the candidates for President to do something about it.
Now is the time to take real action to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
Now is the time to stand up for public safety and common sense, and against the gun pushers.
Now is the time for all Presidential candidates to stand up and be counted.