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It is long past time to have a serious conversation about gun violence in this country. That said, a “serious conversation” isn’t enough. We need action.

Growing up in the city of Detroit, going to middle school in the Cass Corridor, my experience around guns wasn’t a positive one. Gangs, gun runners and the drug trade were my associations with the gun issue.

As I’ve gotten older and gained more life experience, I understand that my experience as a kid isn’t the full story of guns. I have friends who love the hunt and treat guns with great respect. As a husband, father and homeowner, I completely understand the position of the many responsible gun owners who choose to keep a weapon to protect their homes and loved ones.

But let’s get this straight: that is not what we are discussing right now. We have a deadly epidemic of gun violence in our country, aided by the gun and ammo lobby and the elected officials they own in Washington, D.C. Some people say it’s too early to discuss this, especially after another recent shooting. But there have been myriad mass shootings since Sandy Hook, and each time it was “too soon” to discuss.

But “too soon” is a trick to ensure we never have the conversation. The truth is gun safety needs to become as urgent an issue as cutting taxes is to some. But Republicans in Congress are ignoring the vast majority of Americans who demand gun safety measures. These elected officials are more interested in protecting arms dealers and not our families. The only action they’ve taken is to block every single piece of proposed legislation.

Most depressing is that they could stand up for us without fearing for their jobs because there are concrete steps they can take that are supported by almost all Americans. Steps that might upset the ammunition makers who fund their campaigns, but not the American citizens who cast ballots.

For example, 94 percent of Americans agree we should have universal background checks. That would save lives because in states that have universal background checks 47 percent fewer women are shot to death by domestic partners.

Americans also overwhelmingly support reinstating the assault weapons ban, blocking the sale of guns to abusers, blocking sales to those on the terrorist watch list and eliminating the law that prohibits the federal government from spending money on gun safety research.

Let’s make this a matter of science, not politics. Using data, using scientific research, we can find the best path to reduce gun violence while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners across this nation. Every year we spend $240 million on traffic safety research and $233 million on food safety research, but we spend nothing on gun safety research. That’s absurd.

We deserve a government that’s both competent and decent — a government that works for all of us. Ignoring massacres in our own back yards in order to please the CEOs of gun manufacturers? That’s not competent. Fighting to block any action to make our families safer just for the sake of keeping a job? That’s not decent. That’s not who we are as a nation.

We need to remain fact-based with an eye on results and not be deterred by distractions or fantasy. And we need to make it clear to our representatives that they answer to us. They must protect our lives and our kids’ lives, not the profits of those who manufacture and sell guns and ammunition.

Dan Haberman is a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 11th Congressional district.

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