Opinion: No more thoughts and prayers: Enough is enough

Brenda Lawrence

Gun violence in the United States will continue to be an issue until we can all agree it is a national epidemic.

Over the last 35 years, we have experienced some of the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s history. These senseless acts of violence are taking the lives of nearly 100 Americans each day.

Bodies are removed from the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, in Dayton, Ohio.

As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to protect the people of the United States, however, we are dealing with an administration that refuses to acknowledge that hateful words have consequences.

This February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which establishes stricter background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, refuses to bring up this bipartisan piece of legislation for a vote in the U.S. Senate. As elected members of Congress, we swore an oath of office to defend the people that we represent, but McConnell refuses to consider bipartisan legislation that is supported by a majority of Americans.

Enough is enough — Americans across the country are demanding gun reform, and it is past time for Congress to act.

Young children go through active shooter drills in school before many even know how to read. Places of worship, festivals and community centers — long considered to safe havens for Americans to enjoy — are becoming targets for individuals seeking to inflict mass casualties. For far too long, we have been offering "thoughts and prayers" to families across the country affected by unspeakable hatred.

Gun reform is necessary to protect the American people. Every year, nearly 40,000 people die from gun violence. That's 40,000 people too many.

We have allowed the hatred of domestic terrorism and white supremacy to slowly tear away at the moral fabric of our country. The hateful rhetoric and lack of support for gun control by the president of the United States is normalizing hatred that has no place in our society.

It will never be acceptable to speak negatively about or physically harm someone based on their gender, race, sexual orientation or religion. America was established as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The citizens of this country should matter more than gun lobbyists and the National Rifle Association.

In the last 10 years, we have seen six of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. In 2017, 58 innocent festival goers were killed at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many of these shooters used assault weapons to carry out their attacks, and I am proud to be a cosponsor of legislation that would ban these dangerous weapons.

The firearm used by the shooter Connor Betts, 22, is projected on a screen during a press conference Sunday.

These semi-automatic firearms are military grade and have no business on our streets. Since the ban on assault weapons lapsed in 2004, there has been a significant increase in the number of high-fatality shootings in this country.

We cannot allow our country to be ripped apart by gun violence. No family, no school, and no community should have to suffer through the tragedy of a mass shooting in 2019.

As members of Congress, we have an obligation to uphold the Constitution and protect the people we serve. When one community experiences a mass shooting, our next thought should not be, “Will we be next?"

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, represents Michigan's 14th Congressional District.