To: Senators Thune, Rounds, and Representative Noem
On Thursday, a 19-year-old opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, resulting in the deaths of 15 people at the school, with at least two more victims dying from their injuries in hospitals after. In the aftermath of this, the ninth deadliest mass shooting on American soil, I am writing to ask what you intend to do as a lawmaker to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
I realize that the aftermath of this gun tragedy is perhaps too soon a time to turn to matters of law, as the gunshot wound to our national psyche is raw and needs time to heal. I accept that.
However, has there been enough time yet to address the two students shot dead at Marshall County High School in Kentucky just last month? Not yet?
Perhaps there has been enough time to address the three students shot dead at Aztec High School in New Mexico in December 2017? No, not still?
Then has there been enough time to address the six shot dead at Rancho Tehama Elementary in California in November 2017?
Or the dead shot at Freeman High in Washington in September 2017?
The dead shot at North Park Elementary in California in April 2017?
The dead shot at Townville Elementary in South Carolina in September 2016?
The dead at Jeremiah Burke High in Massachusetts in June 2016?
The dead at Independence High in Arizona in February 2016?
And these are only GRADE SCHOOLS. I haven’t mentioned those shot dead at our country’s universities.
How long after a student dies in the hallways of their school is it permissible to discuss ways to safeguard their peers who survived?
How many K-12 corpses are required before you feel motivated to do something more than issue a statement about your “thoughts and prayers”?
I do not have the answers to these questions. However, assuming the ever-rising body count of schoolchildren DOES finally become unbearable to you, there are several widely supported “common sense” gun safety measures you could pursue. Let me suggest a less standard one: a national Permit-To-Purchase (or PTP) policy for firearms; that is, a national law that would require citizens to obtain a permit, contingent on passing a background check and safety training, before buying a firearm.
There is significant evidence that PTP laws reduce both gun violence and illegal access to firearms. For example, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, the passing of a 1995 PTP law in Connecticut lead to a 40% reduction in gun deaths and a 15% reduction in gun suicides. Alternatively, when Missouri repealed its PTP law in 2007, it saw a 14% increase in the murders and a 16% increase in suicides.
Moreover, a PTP policy could garner broad support. Polls consistently show vast majorities of Americans support the elements of PTP laws: 86% support universal background checks; 83% support banning sales to violent criminals or the mentally ill (not to equate those two groups by any means); 79% support mandatory safety training. Universal background checks have even higher support among gun owners, and PTP laws do not feature the wholesale bans on weapons that remain consistently unpopular with them.
I accept the fact that my being gunned down at a music festival, or a nightclub, or a church, or a movie theater, or a restaurant, or just walking down my neighborhood street has been deemed by Congress as a reasonable price to pay to for the NRA’s blinkered definition of “freedom,” but I do not consent to having schoolchildren pay my share of that cost. I do not claim that PTP laws will end school shootings, but there is evidence that they DO reduce gun-related deaths and combine elements with broad citizen support.
You have had time enough to mourn the many, many dead. It is now time to honor them with action. I beg you to actively propose, draft, and/or support Permit-To-Purchase legislation. Thank you for your service.