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Time for a vote on ‘No Fly, No Buy’

Sander Levin

House Democrats took a stand by sitting down. Led by civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Democrats held the House floor in an unprecedented sit-in to demand Republican leadership bring up common sense gun safety legislation for a vote.

All too often, our nation is wracked by the horror and grief of a mass shooting. The most recent attack in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people, wounded 53 others, and reminded us all of the terrible hate and violence faced by the LGBT community. In the wake of this tragedy, Michiganians mourned with the people of Orlando, knowing all too well what it feels like to have your community attacked.

Across the nation, communities turned to Congress for solutions, demanding real change rather than only of moments of silences and prayers without action. Because Republicans refused to bring any legislation up for a vote, House Democrats held the floor for 26 hours, showing solidarity with the vast majority of Americans who support expanding background checks and banning people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying guns. It has become simply unbearable to continue to do nothing.

Gun violence is a chronic problem across our nation. In 2014, 1,080 people died in gun-related deaths in Michigan alone. That makes Michigan one of 17 states where deaths from a firearm surpass deaths from automobiles. In fact, more than 81 percent of homicides in Michigan involve some sort of gun. Yet unlike auto-related deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot even study the root cause behind this epidemic because it has been expressly prohibited by Republicans from doing so.

While no single piece of legislation alone will stem the flow of gun violence, passing common sense measures that are broadly supported by the American people would be a good place to start. The FBI and the attorney general have no authority to prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms: officials have had to stand by for the past 11 years while 90 percent of gun purchases by suspected terrorists have been allowed to proceed. And why should the background check at a gun show or online be any different than those at a gun store?

House Democrats are calling for a vote on two bipartisan pieces of legislation. The “No Fly, No Buy” bill would prevent people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to purchase a firearm.

Another proposed bill would keep guns away from criminals and domestic abusers by expanding criminal background checks to include sales both online and at gun shows. We know background checks work, and we must close the loophole where firearm purchases at gun shows and online are exempt from such measures. Every day where background checks are used, they stop more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun.

It is often said that decisions are made by those who show up. All across the country, those concerned about the gun violence epidemic are showing up to make sure their voices are heard through calls and letters to their representatives and senators, posts on social media or by joining together with community groups.

We must not let this passion fade like the many common sense gun violence prevention measures which have languished at the hands of Republican leadership. We can raise our voices together to apply tremendous pressure that cannot be ignored in Washington. With one voice, we must say: Mr. Speaker, it’s time for a vote.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 9th District.