According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, on average, 96 people in America die from gun violence every day and almost 125,000 people are shot every year, including more than 17,000 children under the age of 19. It is just common sense to pass laws that require criminal background checks for ALL gun sales, keep guns out of the hands people who are a threat to themselves or others, and limit the lethality of firearms by prohibiting high capacity magazines and bump stocks.

It’s been 25 years since Congress last passed legislation addressing background checks. Current law requires background checks only on gun sales by licensed gun dealers. That means that millions of guns are exchanged each year without a background check – often online or at gun shows. And current federal law generally does not cover abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers in its restrictions on who can legally purchase a firearm.

The federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted in 1994. That law, which also included a ban on high-capacity magazines, expired in 2004. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Parkland High School we are reminded that assault-style rifles have been used in five of the deadliest mass shootings of the past decade – Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland. These guns are designed for one purpose: to kill human beings as efficiently as possible. Why should anyone outside of the military or law enforcement have these weapons?

It is possible to respect the Second Amendment while at the same time supporting common sense gun laws that would make us all safer. At the federal level, the proposed House Bill H.R. 8 would expand background checks. At the state level, House Bill 3058 would require that background checks be completed before a firearm sale takes place (closing “the Charleston loophole”). House Bill 3206 would ban assault-style weapons, bump stocks, and high capacity magazines. House Bill 3275 would allow the temporary seizure of firearms from people who pose an imminent risk to themselves or others; this is an example of what’s commonly called a “red flag” law. We need to speak up and let our lawmakers know that we want them to work to reduce gun violence by supporting these bills.

And here’s a personal message to the guy in the silver and black jeep-style vehicle who responded to my “ban assault weapons” bumper sticker by repeatedly thrusting his hand out of his vehicle’s window to display an obscene gesture as I drove on Highway 6 from Bush River Road across the Lake Murray dam towards Pilgrim Church Road, where he turned off: Hey fella, I appreciate your desire to provide feedback, but I didn’t find your counter argument to be particularly persuasive. Bless your heart.

Miriam Johnson, PhD, MSW, MS

Columbia

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