To the Editor:
As a mother, aunt, pediatrician and neighbor to beloved children, I have long been deeply troubled by the exorbitant levels of gun violence in our country, and my heart was sickened again last month by the massacre of children and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
It is encouraging this week to see the new legislation this past week passed by Congress and signed by the president — the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — aimed at reducing firearm deaths, which would give authorities up to 10 business days to review the juvenile and mental health records of gun permit applicants younger than 21; direct millions of dollars toward helping states implement red flag laws (which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous); ensure that serious dating partners are included in the federal law that bars domestic abusers from purchasing firearms; provide millions of dollars for expanding mental health resources in communities and schools as well as boost funds for school safety; and toughen penalties for those evading licensing requirements or making “straw” purchases, buying and then selling weapons to people barred from purchasing handguns. It is a first step, achieved through the heroic leadership of Christopher Murphy, the Democratic senator from Connecticut.
It is very encouraging to see a proposed gun safety legislation actually being supported by more than just one or two Republican senators for the first time in decades. For too long, the NRA with its manipulative message of fear and its powerful financial hold on Republicans, has held us all hostage. Already the NRA has condemned this bill and every senator who supports it, even though it does not hamper the right of any law-abiding, non-dangerous citizen from buying a gun.
I myself am a Democrat, because as a pediatrician it has been abundantly clear to me over the years that it is the Democrat Party who has promoted policies that uphold the well-being of women, children and families. But I am grateful that our Republican Sen. Thom Tillis was willing to stick his neck out to work with Murphy on the team that hammered out the compromises required for the details of this legislation. If you are a Republican who has voted for Tillis in the past, and someone who cares about the safety of our children and communities, please let him know of your support for this legislation and of your appreciation for his willingness to work on it. He needs to hear support loud and clear from people like you. You can email him through his website, at www.tillis.senate.gov/ or call him at the Senate at 202.224.6342 or at his Charlotte office number, 704.509.9087. In the final Senate vote, both Tillis and N.C. Sen. Richard Burr voted for it, two of only 14 GOP senators who supported the measure.
It is tempting to think in despair that until we have campaign finance reform that prevents powerful lobbies like the NRA from influencing legislators through huge financial contributions, that our own voices don’t matter. In fact, if Tillis and other Republican senators learn that they can work on solutions to this problem and still be supported by Republican voters, they could escape the NRA’s stranglehold and finally begin to work with Democrats to prioritize the safety of our children. Please, speak up in support of our children’s safety.