Six years ago today, the Aurora theater shooting scarred our community. I’ll never forget the grief I felt for the victims’ families as they searched for their children. The semi-automatic rifle used in the attack was similar to the one I carried in Iraq and Afghanistan. Using those weapons – and having them used against me – means I know what they’re capable of. They have no place in our community.
I remember thinking about my family – my wife and our son at home, and the daughter we had on the way – and how our country had failed to keep our community safe. I remember the determination we all felt to ensure nothing like this ever happened again.
Six years later, we’re still trying to turn that determination into action at the federal level. But the gun violence crisis hasn’t waited for us. It claimed 154,000 lives in the first four years after the theater shooting alone; over 3,000 of them were in Colorado. The weapons I used at war remain as accessible to dangerous people as ever. My daughter now hides in dark closets during ‘bad guy’ drills in pre-school.
Meanwhile, many of our elected officials in Washington have done nothing.
It feels like the gun lobby’s influence in Congress has only grown. Half of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have taken place within the last three years. And gun violence continues to devastate many of our cities, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color.
Enough is enough. We can chart a new course – one that unites our community, takes on the NRA, and demands real leadership from those with the power to help.
We can’t prevent every dangerous person from finding a weapon. But we can do a lot better. Let’s start by making background checks universal so criminals and domestic abusers cannot legally buy a firearm. Then let’s close the gun show loophole and pass a ‘no fly no buy’ law, which would prevent gun sales to anyone deemed too dangerous to take a commercial flight.
The federal government has previously banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, like the one the shooter in Aurora used. We should reinstate those bans, and we should ban the ‘bump stocks’ that were used to devastating effect in Las Vegas.
Finally, it’s past time to repeal the Dickey Amendment. That amendment, passed in 1996 after intense lobbying from the NRA, prevents federally funded researchers from even exploring the public health impacts of gun violence. The need for this research today has become so glaring that even ex-Rep. Dickey himself now regrets the rule.
I was raised in a family of gun owners, and I took up hunting at a young age. It’s no mystery to me why some Coloradans feel suspicious that efforts to prevent gun violence will ultimately infringe upon the Second Amendment. But we don’t have to choose between preserving our rights and staying safe. We can push for public safety while maintaining the Founders’ vision.
Citizenship comes with rights, but it also holds obligations. We all have obligations to our country and our community. Protecting the right of a child to go to school or see a movie without fear of violence is one of them.
Commonsense reform to our gun laws has felt out of reach for a long time. Not anymore.
No matter where I’ve traveled in our community, residents young and old are joining together to say “never again.” Just last week, I joined 1,200 people at a church to hear students, parents, and advocates share their stories and demand action from Washington. The Coloradans in those pews had had enough, and I was proud to join them.
The strength in our nation lies in our drive to be better tomorrow than we are today. Our Founders had a hunger for something better – and an ability to be informed by our history, but not bound by it. We have never been a nation that accepts defeat when the going gets tough.
Six years ago, a dangerous man with a gun terrorized our community. Now it’s time to ask whether or not our leaders have taken action to prevent another attack. If they haven’t, then we share the obligation to hold them accountable.
Jason Crow is the Democratic nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat.