Let me be clear. This is about America’s gun violence epidemic.
Star-Ledger Opinion Editorial
By Donald Norcross
El Paso. Dayton. Parkland. Newtown. Orlando. Las Vegas. Aurora. They used to simply be names of cities and towns in America that some people knew of and others didn’t. Now, we all know the names. They are just some of the places in America that are now symbols of the out-of-control gun violence epidemic in our country.
Let me be clear – this is a GUN violence epidemic. Don’t let anyone tell you this is just about mental illness, video games or immigration.
In fact, the FBI says, “declarations that all active shooters must simply be mentally ill are misleading and unhelpful” and three out of four mass shooters have no mental illness diagnosis. Framing this as just a mental health problem is exactly what the gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), wants. The same can be said of blaming violent video games. Our country has 300 percent more gun deaths per person than any of the other 10 countries with the most video game sales. This isn’t a mental illness problem. This isn’t a video game problem. America has a gun problem.
In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings, here's a look at gun control laws in the Garden State.
Yet, Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration react to each mass shooting and instances of homegrown terror by choosing to ignore our country’s gun problem. Instead, they offer half-hearted moments of silence – and then follow up on their ‘thoughts and prayers’ with the silence of inaction. It’s despicable, it’s spineless and it’s well-past time that we call them out on their bulls--t, hypocrisy and crocodile tears.
In February, we passed H.R. 8, bipartisan legislation to expand background checks, in the House of Representatives, and the Senate is letting the bill collect dust as domestic terrorism continues around our country. So, let’s first start there and, then, let’s do much more. We need to reinstate our national assault weapons ban – no civilian should be able to easily get a high-powered weapon with 250 rounds and go around slaughtering people. We also need to stop domestic abusers and people with restraining orders from purchasing firearms, crack down on illegal gun trafficking and permit and fund research on gun violence.
In 2016, I sat on the House Floor with Representative John Lewis after the Orlando massacre – but I wish I didn’t have to. I don’t want to join marches against gun violence every year, but I know there are lives on the line and blood on our hands if we fail to act. I don’t want to hold town halls on school gun violence prevention, but Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas made that a necessity. And while I’m proud to be endorsed by Mom’s Demand Action – I wish they could stop demanding and we could all stop sharing stories of tragedies.
The most notable gun control bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy Tuesday requires every gun retailer in the Garden State to sell “smart guns” — personalized firearms that can be fired only by their designated owners.
In my hometown of Camden, there is a story about gun violence that spans multiple generations. A tragic event happened in 1949 – Howard Unruh shot and killed 13 people, and the event is now considered the first modern mass shooting in our country’s history. During the horrific events that unfolded, a 12-year old boy hid in the closest as his mother and father were murdered. His name was Charles Cohen, and nearly 70 years later in Stoneman Douglas High School, his own granddaughter, Carly Novell, hid in a closest just like her grandfather did. Carly joined me in the House gallery on the day H.R. 8 passed and I told her family’s story to my colleagues. I ended the speech by sharing Carly’s words. She said, “this pain shouldn’t be generational” and she’s right.
Her family has suffered and all of us worry that our family could be next. I’m a father and grandfather, and I’m very concerned about the rise of domestic terrorism. This hate-fueled, homegrown violence should make us all scream at the top of our lungs and call on every public official to do more than just offer thoughts and prayers. Stop protecting the NRA over our children and families! There have been more mass shootings than days this year – that’s insane. We must do more, we must do better. Enough is enough. Enough was enough. When will enough be enough?