The recent shooting in downtown Sacramento was the worst mass shooting in the city’s history — and it came just weeks after a father shot and killed his three daughters, a supervising official, and himself. We are all very aware of these most recent shootings, but the reality is that 30 Americans are killed every day by someone using a gun, and that number jumps to over 100 when you factor in suicides and accidental shootings. The fact of the matter is that when criminals and the dangerously mentally ill get possession of firearms, tragedy follows. No one law can solve this, but there are steps that would help.
California has some of the strongest gun regulations in the nation, including universal background checks and protections for victims of domestic violence, and for this reason California has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country – but that begs the question of how does a shooting like what occurred in Sacramento even happen? One reason is that guns don’t stop at state lines. In 2022, 29 states do not require a background check for gun sales by unlicensed sellers. Another reason is that criminals continue to steal firearms and obtain guns by other illegal practices. In order to reduce gun violence, we must crack down on criminals and gang activity. The unfortunate reality is that these tragedies still occur and we cannot stop them all.
Until we pass strong federal gun violence prevention laws, California will never see the full benefit of its tough gun violence prevention laws. Solving gun violence cannot be solved overnight nor by the passage of one bill, but we can take important steps to advance gun violence prevention by passing federal gun violence prevention laws that help prevent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from getting guns. Here’s how we can start.
In March of 2021, the House of Representatives passed my bill, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require background checks for all gun sales. This bill is currently waiting consideration in the United States Senate, which unfortunately is the only place in the country where background checks is a partisan issue. Over 90 percent of Americans support background checks, including 72 percent of National Rifle Association members. It is clear that some members of the Senate are choosing to listen to the Beltway NRA rather than their constituents. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act is a commonsense step that experts agree would immediately save lives and keep our communities safer.
Also, the proliferation of ghost guns is turbocharging the gun violence epidemic. Ghost guns are untraceable firearms built from a kit that are purchased without background check. They can be assembled within minutes without specialized tools. The majority of firearms that law enforcement confiscate on the streets are ghost guns, and they are currently the fastest-growing gun safety problem in the country. Congress must immediately pass legislation that would serialize these gun kits and require background checks when purchasing them. Sheriffs, deputies, police chiefs, officers, and other local law enforcement leaders know that getting ghost guns off the street is vital to keeping our communities safe.
Gun violence is not going to go away overnight, and it is on each of us to continue to leverage our voices to call for commonsense measures like background checks and funding for community violence intervention programs that are proven to work. Inaction is not an option as the carnage of gun violence is a devastating daily reality. We can help to prevent gun violence and save lives while protecting Second Amendment rights — and preventing criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms will do just that.
— U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson/5th District, California