Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Last week, I wrote you with my thoughts, sadness and anger, about the senseless, hate-filled violence that took the lives of 10 people in a Buffalo grocery store. Days after this horrific scene, our nation is faced with the reality that our “new normal” is deadly.
Tuesday morning, 19 children ages 7 through 10 were gunned down in their classroom, along with two of their devoted teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Children and their teachers. You may never have heard of Uvalde before this week, but now it will forever be remembered alongside Parkland, Columbine and Newtown.
This was an elementary school. Parents sent their young children to a place that is supposed to be a safe space. A place to learn and play. Yet it was there that a gunman, barely 18-years-old and armed with assault weapons, attacked.
The anguish of the families that have lost their children or lost their loved ones is indescribable. In fact, we learned Thursday that the widower of one of the teachers who was killed in the attack died Thursday of a heart attack. Relatives say the father of four was inconsolable in his grief.
The children who witnessed this horror will be traumatized for life – scarred by the memories. The parent of an 11-year-old girl, who survived the tragedy, said she did so by wiping blood from one of her classmates on herself so that the gunman would think she, too, was dead. That moment will be with her forever.
Including Uvalde, there have been 27 school shootings in the U.S. so far this year and 119 school shootings since 2018, according to Education Week. It was only five years ago when a young girl was shot and killed at Great Mills High School in Maryland and, nine days later, 17 were killed (34 injured) at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Like most Marylanders, I’m frustrated. How and why could this happen. Again.
There is no question that we have a mental health crisis in this country, and I am working with my colleagues to remove the obstacles in the way for Americans to get access to the care they need. But we have a gun problem in this country and we can no longer ignore this crisis.
As the Editorial Board of the Baltimore Sun said so succinctly:
“The terrible tragedy raises all kinds of questions from the mental health of the killer, the inadequacy of community-based psychiatric care and the bullying by classmates that might have contributed to his instability to the failure of those around him to recognize this potential threat. But one element stands out above so many others: easy access to assault weapons.”
There is no reason on Earth why an 18-year-old needed to buy two assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition within a few days. None. These weapons are designed and manufactured for war – to kill people. There is no legitimate sporting purpose for owning such a weapon.
We had a federal assault weapons ban in this country from 1994 to 2004. Regretfully, Republicans backed by the National Rifle Association forced this to expire. It has cost us dearly. A study last year by Northwestern Medicine says that had the ban remained in place “as many as 30 more mass shootings could have been prevented.”
The United States is an outlier among nations in the world. We stand alone – by far – in the number of guns per capita and the amount of gun violence.
Lawmakers who refuse to face this reality do a disservice to their constituents and our nation.
According to a newly released FBI report, there were 61 “active shooter” attacks nationwide in 2021 alone. For the number crunchers, it’s one about every six days. This is double the number in 2018 and 2019.
The same report shows that firearms are now the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the U.S., passing car accidents.
Yet we remain in gridlock – held captive by a gun lobby.
When is enough enough?
I acknowledge that we cannot stop every shooting, but that does not mean we do nothing. We have to take action. I am ready to vote. More than ready.
Congress needs to take up and pass commonsense gun safety legislation, including an assault weapons ban. We cannot wait any longer. We should pass the bipartisan Background Check Expansion Act (S. 529), which would require background checks for ALL gun sales. The Background Check Completion Act (S. 591) would eliminate the “Charleston loophole” that allows for a sale to go forward if a check is not completed within three days. The Keep Americans Safe Act (S. 1108) would prohibit the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
We have to act. We can save lives. How many more children need to die before enough is enough?
P.S. Difficult times like this remind us how much we value our family and friends. Please enjoy your time this holiday weekend, but also keep our fallen military in your thoughts. For my full statement on Memorial Day, please see this link.