The following was published in the New York Daily News on July 25, 2012.
"Now is not the time to talk about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
That’s what we have been hearing from many pundits and politicians in the wake of the Aurora shootings.
But try telling that to the parents of Lloyd Morgan, the 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed this week at a Bronx playground.
Try telling that to the parents of Isaiah Gonzalez, the 3-year-old boy shot two weeks ago at a Brooklyn playground. Try telling that to the four daughters of New York City Police Officer Peter Figoski, who was killed with an illegal gun just before Christmas last year.
Although New York City is the safest big city in the country — and we are on pace this year to set a new record for the fewest number of murders — one murder is still too many. And the problem of illegal guns stretches across the country.
Every day, 34 Americans are murdered with guns. That’s 12,000 innocent people killed each year with guns, many of them possessed illegally.
During the next President’s term, if we do nothing, 48,000 people will be murdered with guns — nearly as many Americans who were killed during a decade of fighting in Vietnam. Yet neither presidential candidate has offered a plan to lower the death toll, which continues to rise.
Less than a week after Aurora, the two candidates are back to politics as usual, attacking each other on gaffes and trivialities. If not now, when is the time for them to outline their solutions to gun violence?
After the massing shooting in Tucson last year, we heard: “Now is not the time.” We heard the same refrain after shooting sprees at Virginia Tech and Columbine. It’s as if as a country, we cannot mourn the dead and protect the living at the same time.
I refuse to accept that — and as a country, we have never accepted that when our safety has been at risk. When our country was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, we did not wait to respond. We took immediate steps to prevent another attack. Here in New York City, we gave our police officers the tools they need to do their jobs — and protect innocent lives.
But when 34 people are murdered with guns every day, Washington just looks the other way — even when massacres occur in a single place. It has been 18 months since the Tucson shooting, and still Washington has not taken the steps necessary to ensure that all people with mental health and drug histories, including the Tucson shooter, are precluded from buying guns.
The reason for the inaction is that — according to conventional wisdom — talking about gun regulations is unpopular with voters. But when you ask the American people — including gun owners — if they favor smarter, tougher measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, they overwhelmingly say they do.
A poll released Tuesday by the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns — and conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz — shows that 87% of gun owners favor universal background checks for all gun sales.
Currently, about 40% of gun sales happen without a federal background check, making it easy for criminals and the mentally ill to purchase weapons.
With nearly nine of every 10 gun owners in favor of closing this loophole, why has Congress never even held a vote on the bill — called the Fix Gun Checks Act — that would close it?
The same polls shows that gun owners and NRA members also strongly support closing a loophole that allows people on the FBI terrorist watch list — who are not permitted to board an airplane — to buy guns. But Washington refuses to act, compromising our national security.
Across the country, there is broad agreement among Democrats and Republicans, gun owners and nongun owners, about steps we can take to protect both public safety and the Second Amendment. And as the families and loved ones of innocent people who have been murdered with guns will tell you: Now is the time to act.