Why Won't Congress Act on Gun Control?

Why has Congress not been able to pass meaningful gun control reform legislation in 2016? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, on Quora:

Thirty-thousand Americans die each year from gun violence. Two-thirds commit suicide. Congress often lags behind the American people, and this issue has been no different. For instance, Americans, including gun owners, overwhelmingly believe that everyone who buys a gun should have to first pass a criminal background check. In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Americans continue to find it inconceivable that someone suspected of being a terrorist can legally buy a firearm in this country.

Too often, Congress has refused to enact commonsense reforms, even though they are supported by the majority of the American people. Why is that?

Historically, the gun lobby has had a much more vocal, well-funded, and passionate base of supporters. But for tragic reasons, the politics are beginning to shift on this issue, as the gun violence epidemic today is leaving no community unscathed. It is not just families in cities such as my hometown of Chicago that are affected by gun violence on a daily basis; neighborhoods that never thought they would have to deal with it are now affected as well. So we have momentum building among families and supporters devastated by gun violence and who feel the urgency to act and stop this epidemic. We have also seen gun owners turned off by the maximalist position that the gun lobby takes after these mass shootings, which opposes even commonsense measures that are consistent with the Second Amendment such as universal background checks, preventing suspected terrorists from buying a gun, developing smart gun technology, and banning assault weapons. But if all of our voices are heard, if we continue making the case that we can reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment, there is hope.

Lastly, I think we need to create space for more safe dialogue between people on opposite sides of this issue - between families who have been affected by gun violence and those Americans who want to enjoy their Second Amendment rights. We need to break down the stereotypes, mistrust, and defensiveness that has built up, so everyone understands these policies are not about taking away guns from law-abiding gun owners, or infringing on the Constitution. They're about finding common ground that keeps all communities safe, while respecting everyone's rights.

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