It is easy to feel hopeless in the face of a tragedy like the shooting at Pulse that killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others. It is easy to think that there’s nothing we can do to prevent gun violence. And while it would be easy to feel defeated when our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., cannot seem to come together to close the loopholes in our laws that allow dangerous people to get guns, do not give up hope. In the three-and-a-half years since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook School, the gun violence prevention movement has made incredible strides. We know which policies will reduce gun violence. And we are working in statehouses and in Congress to implement them. And we are only getting louder.
Ensuring a background check on every gun sale is admittedly a simple step. It also is the single most important thing we can do to reduce gun violence. In the 18 states that require a background check on all handgun sales, the rates of women shot to death by intimate partners, police officers killed in the line of duty and people who die by gun suicides are all cut nearly in half. Gun trafficking also goes down by 48 percent.
Background checks work — and voters like them too. More than 90 percent of Americans support a background check on every gun sale, including the majority of gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. It’s not about taking guns away from law-abiding citizens — it’s about keeping guns out of dangerous hands, such as those of felons, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses.
As we fight tooth and nail in the United States to ensure background checks on every gun sale, we also will keep the pressure on Congress to close the most dangerous loopholes. We have to close the terror gap that allows suspected terrorists to legally purchase a gun. If law enforcement believes you are too dangerous to board a plane, you’re clearly too dangerous to buy a gun.
And as we’ve seen time and time again, hateful people are using guns to attack and target communities. Last summer, it was a black church in Charleston, S.C. In the fall, a Colorado Planned Parenthood was attacked. And in Orlando, 49 people died at an LGBT nightclub in the middle of Pride Month. For those communities and so many others, we will fight for legislation to prevent people convicted of hate crimes from buying a firearm.
The truth is that there is so much more we can do to prevent gun violence. Since Sandy Hook, six states — Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon and Washington — have passed legislation to put a background check on every gun sale. We need every state to take that step, and we need Congress to act too. Together, we will get there. But it will take all of us.
How You Can Help End Gun Violence
6 easy steps to effect change in your community and beyond
1. Text 644-33 Now
?Text “DISARM HATE” to 644-33 to get a call that will connect you to the congressional switchboard. A message gives instructions on what to say.
2. Sign This Petition
?Tell Congress to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people by signing the petition at act.everytown.org.
3. Write Letters or Send Emails
Find your senators at senate.gov/senators/contact, and your representatives at house.gov/representatives, and ask them to do more to end gun violence.
4. Contact Your Local Paper
?Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, urging local leaders and the community to get involved in the fight to end gun violence.
5. Use Social Media
Participate in the online conversation by following and using the hashtags #disarmhate and #enough.
6. Stay Up-To-Date
Learn the facts about gun violence in America and the nation’s gun laws at everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers.
This article originally appeared in the July 2 issue of Billboard.