Gun reforms Now: a template for writing your elected officials

Note: Scroll to the end of this post for two letter templates — one short, one longer — that you may use to write elected officials about gun safety reforms.

Last Saturday, for the first time since 1920, The New York Times ran an editorial on the front page of its newspaper. The topic? Ending the epidemic of gun violence that is plaguing our nation. The front page placement shone on a huge spotlight on the urgent need for reforms supported by a vast majority of Americans.

The terrorist attack that killed 14 and injured 21 at a holiday office party in San Bernardino last week was the 355th mass shooting in the U.S. this year. Add that horrendous statistic to the fact that well over 30,000 Americans die each year from firearms and we’ve got a serious problem that has the rest of the developed world scratching their heads. They don’t have this problem on the massive scale that we do. We’re unique.

Gun homicides occur six times more often here than in neighboring Canada, and a whopping 16 times more often than Germany, according to U.N. data compiled by The Guardian in this Vox article. The difference is our lack of sufficient gun safety regulations.

Why do our elected officials continue to do nothing as Americans are gunned down at work, at school, at the movies, at church, at shopping malls and at health care centers?

We have too many guns (over 300 million, almost one for every adult yet more than half of us don’t own one) and too many of them are assault weapons that have no place outside the military. They are designed for mass killing, they’re too easy to get, and they’re ruthlessly protected by a powerful gun lobby worth tens of billions of dollars. Even after the slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, Congress did nothing.

If we can’t get our elected officials to react to a class of dead first graders, what makes us think they’ll act any differently now? The Congressional pattern of doing nothing continued in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino slaughter, the largest since Newtown. The very next day the Senate rejected two common-sense gun safety measures. One would have expanded background checks, a move supported by a vast majority of Americans, even lawful gun-owning Americans. The other would have banned people on the FBI’s terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms. Yes, even it failed. Republican senators who talk tough on terrorism voted NO. Every single one of them.

Restricting a suspected terrorist’s access to firearms seems like a no brainer. We don’t let them on planes so why we would let them legally purchase a gun? Who the heck would support something like that? Well, the won’t-budge-an-inch NRA would. They support the rights of suspected terrorists to own guns, so the elected officials they buy in Congress do, too.

That’s who we’re up against here. The big-money NRA lobby.

We have to counter their power by raising our own dollars for organizations like Moms Demand Action (I sent a donation this week) working for common sense. We must all raise our voices and contact our elected officials. If they don’t act, then vote them out.

I wrote my congressman, Representative Dave Reichert (R-Washington), last week. I sent a copy to my democratic senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell who I already know are working for reforms. The next step is contacting my state legislators.

I’ve pasted two versions of my letter to Rep. Reichert below. The first is too long if you use the email form on your representative’s website, but not if you use old-school mail. It’s also time sensitive because it references events last week. The second is a shorter version that does not mention San Bernardino.

Feel free to cut and paste. Use them as a template to start your own letter. Or take one of them in it’s entirety. It’s up to you.

To find your representative, enter your zip code here. To find your senator, look here. Next, contact your state legislators and governors, and your county and city councils. Let’s do this.

Here is a longer version of my gun reform letter. It is more time-sensitive than the shorter one to follow because it references last week’s events:

Dear Representative/Senator ______________,

I’m one of the more than 90% of Americans who support reforms to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. I’m also your constituent and I vote.

We had three mass shooting just last week: Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the office holiday party in San Bernardino and a third one in Savannah, Georgia that hardly made the news (apparently “only one” killed and three wounded isn’t news worthy anymore). Yet even against the backdrop of this brutal violence, I read that your colleagues over in the Senate rejected two common-sense gun safety amendments – one to expand background checks and one to ban people on the FBI’s terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms. This failure is unacceptable.

Expanding background checks has the support of a vast majority of Americans, including lawful gun owners. Why would we deny suspected terrorists a plane ticket, but allow them to purchase a gun? This makes no sense. Closing this loophole is exactly the type of “emergency” legislation that should have flown through Congress unopposed in the week following the Paris attacks, but instead the “emergency” became banning highly vetted Syrian refugees – who are mostly women and children – from seeking safe haven here.

Please try again in the House, and keep trying until gun safety measures pass. The Bush administration supported the watch list ban. And Ronald Reagan lobbied for expanding background checks and waiting periods, as well as banning assault weapons. What has happened to the bipartisan support on these issues? I urge you to work together again, and advance legislation to save American lives by:

1.       Requiring background checks for all gun sales, including sales from gun shows.
2.       Barring people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying guns.
3.       Renewing the assault weapons ban.
4.       Renewing limits on high-capacity magazines.
5.       Reforming the mental health system and increasing its funding.
6.       Lifting the ban on using federal funds for gun violence research
7.       Making gun trafficking a federal crime.
8.       Closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to obtain guns.

I know we can’t stop every shooting, but we can stop enough to make a difference. Congress must act – and act now.
Please, do something.

Thank you.

And here is a shorter version that is more generic, with no reference to last week’s events:

Dear Representative/Senator ______________,

I’m one of the vast majority of Americans who support reforms to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. I’m also your constituent and I vote. More than 30,000 Americans die from firearms each year, including hundreds in mass shootings using assault weapons that were designed for military use. Assault weapons were banned during the Clinton administration, with the lobbying support of Ronald Reagan. The ban expired in 2004 because gun safety reforms have become a partisan issue. Why? I urge you to work together again, and advance legislation to save American lives by: 

1.       Requiring background checks for all gun sales, including sales from gun shows.
2.       Barring people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying guns.
3.       Renewing the assault weapons ban.
4.       Renewing limits on high-capacity magazines.
5.       Reforming the mental health system and increasing its funding.
6.       Lifting the ban on using federal funds for gun violence research
7.       Making gun trafficking a federal crime.
8.       Closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to obtain guns.

I know we can’t stop every shooting, but we can stop enough to make a difference. Congress must act – and act now.
Please, do something.

Thank you.

 

 

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