In 1960, my mother’s life changed dramatically forever. That was the year her father was murdered through an act of gun violence. She was just 10-years-old. My grandmother became a widow with 6 children left to raise on her own. Losing her father affects my mother to this day, and she always invokes how he would have been so proud of me, too. I have often thought about what it would have been like to have him there at my college graduation, to see me in uniform, or to watch my little league home runs.
February 1st through February 8th marks National Gun Violence Survivors Week, where we listen to stories like my mom’s and other survivors of gun violence throughout the United States. According to Everytown, a gun safety organization, survivors include “a person who witnessed an act of gun violence, was threatened or wounded with a gun, or had someone they know or care for wounded or killed.”
Every year, over 36,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence and approximately 73,330 more are shot and injured. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 43 residents in California’s 39th District have died of gun violence and 47 have been injured since 2014. This is a national crisis that needs to be addressed.
Before even coming to Congress, I was a supporter of the Giffords campaign to end gun violence and advocated for common-sense gun safety legislation. To this day, while representing the 39th District, my advocacy hasn’t wavered. I have fought and will continue to fight tooth and nail for bipartisan legislation to ensure we deliver solutions that keep our families and communities safe. We have lived through too many atrocities caused by gun violence, and instead of offering thoughts and prayers, we need action.
I am proud to have voted for and that the House finally passed common-sense, bipartisan gun legislation, H.R. 8, to expand background checks. This measure is something over 90% of the American people want. This bill demonstrates that Democrats and Republicans are willing to work together to write and pass these life-saving measures.
I’ve also co-introduced two other bipartisan bills aimed to curb gun violence. The first is the STOP Straw Purchases Act which increases penalties resulting from the purchase of a firearm for a prohibited person. The second is the Threat Information Protocol for Sharing (TIPS) Act, which mandates timely information sharing between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement agencies to increase the effectiveness of threat detection and crime prevention in order to prevent acts of gun violence.
In last year’s spending bill, I was proud to join my colleagues to provide funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to study gun violence and find ways to prevent it. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that federal funding is being used to address our public health crisis, and it was long overdue.
But it is not just mass shootings that we should be concerned about. Over two-thirds of all gun deaths in the United States are a result of suicide and the numbers are rising. Over 20 veterans a day die by suicide, and it’s unacceptable that more of our attention isn’t on this serious issue. As a Navy Veteran, I’ve been urging Congress to study firearm suicide and how it relates to mental health. Curbing gun violence requires a comprehensive approach.
From Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a bar in Dayton, Ohio, we have a major problem in our country, and it is not just going to go away.
We need to do more than just listen to my mom’s story and the stories of other survivors of gun violence. They’re calling for us to act, and it’s about time for the Senate and the President to do exactly that. The American people deserve justice.
Congressman Gil Cisneros represents California’s 39th Congressional District and serves on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
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