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OpinionCommentary

Do the right thing on gun laws

Times have changed, and we can’t allow innocent people to die because we refuse to take basic steps that would help make our country safer.

Rep. Tom Suozzi, right, speaks beside Rep. Peter

Rep. Tom Suozzi, right, speaks beside Rep. Peter King during an executive breakfast event hosted by the Long Island Association in Melville Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The courageous high school students who survived the Florida school shooting and other teenagers across the country have inspired a feeling that maybe our response to gun violence will be different this time.

It’s our responsibility to help them — and we encourage young people on Long Island and throughout the nation to support changes to our federal gun laws.

How can we continue to let this violence like the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, happen? With 17 people dead, on top of the hundreds more killed in mass shootings across America over several years, how can we excuse Washington’s inaction? Despair should not discourage all of us from doing the right thing.

We support House legislation like H.R. 4240, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act. If adopted, the measure would expand background checks to include all commercial firearm sales, provide reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers, and preserve Second Amendment rights. It would also offer states better federal funding to maintain proper record-sharing systems to help report criminals and the mentally ill. These are necessary steps to reduce the kind of senseless killings that have felled many of our children.

More than 93 percent of Americans and 80 percent of gun owners support universal background checks. Ninety percent of Americans support restricting the mentally ill from purchasing firearms. And, 86 percent of Americans support restricting anyone on the terror-watch list from buying a gun. That is why we are working to pass H.R. 4057, Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2017.

Since the mid-1990s, basic background checks have blocked more than $3 million in sales to people who should not own guns. That’s good news. Unfortunately, gaps in the system still allow felons and the mentally ill to buy weapons, from other sources, such as gun shows and the internet. Additionally, gun sales can move forward after three business days, even if the background check hasn’t been completed. What’s the point of having background checks if we’re not going to wait for the results?

Too often the National Rifle Association’s response is “more guns.” That’s nonsense. Americans already own 300 million guns.

We both support the Second Amendment. But times have changed, and we can’t allow innocent people to die because we refuse to take basic steps that would help curb gun violence and make our country safer.

We want to keep our children safe from the kind of horror experienced in Florida. They could have been our kids, or yours. As parents, and as your representatives in Congress, it’s our responsibility to help prevent another mass shooting. We didn’t have the political will to stand up and do something before the massacre in Florida.

Now, young people are poised to make the difference, and we should follow their lead.

Thomas Suozzi is a Democrat who represents the Third District, and Peter King is a Republican who represents the Second District.

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