Many of you know that last week I drafted a letter to my state senators urging them to reconsider their position on the our country’s policies regarding the acquisition of firearms. At the same time, members of Congress were staging a sit-in in Washington that lead to the possibility of further discussion on this same issue. What actually caused the scales to tip? I’ll let you guys be the judge. (What is an appropriate font to indicate sarcasm?)
Even though my letter may not have amounted to much, it cannot be argued that the collective voice of the people is invaluable when it comes to inspiring change. On June 23rd, many lawmakers in Washington heard those of us who were unhappy, and sprung into action.
This morning, I received the following response letter from Senator Lamar Alexander (R) from Tennessee:
June 28, 2016
Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding the right to bear arms and the recent shooting in Orlando, Florida. My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of those killed in this horrific act of terror.
Homegrown terrorists are our gravest national security threat, and the Senate has considered several proposal to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill while protecting the Second Amendment and Constitutional due process rights of American Citizens.
I’m a strong supporter of our Constitutional Second Amendment rights. Congress should strongly defend our right to keep and bear arms, not pass laws that take away these rights from law abiding citizens and leave criminals to terrorize the streets. Good citizens don’t abuse guns – criminals do. I will continue fighting to protect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Americans, and oppose efforts to overturn the Second Amendment or deny citizens their due process rights guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
On June 20, I was one of 53 senators who voted for an amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn that would have changed federal law so that the Attorney General can stop anyone suspected of being a terrorist in the past 5 years from buying a gun. I also voted in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Chuck Grassley that strengthened Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens while authorizing new funds for background checks and improving our existing background check system to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and those a court has decided are dangerously mentally ill.
On June 23, I voted to continue to debate on a bipartisan amendment offered by Senator Susan Collins and a second amendment offered by Senator Ron Johnson. I believe the Senate should consider proposals to stop suspected terrorists from buying a gun, and do it in a way that is consistent with every American’s Second Amendment and Fifth Amendment due process rights.
As the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I am also working on legislation to improve programs dealing with awareness, prevention and early identification mental health problems. I believe this is an important step in responding to one of the causes of these disturbing incidents of mass violence, and we need to find better ways to diagnose and treat people with mental health issues.
I’m grateful you’ve shared your reactions with me. I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as Congress continues to debate proposals to stop terrorists from buying guns.
While Senator Alexander’s response may be a bit partisan for my taste, I am grateful that he took the time to speak to my concerns regarding both gun violence and mental health. I am thankful that he voted in favor of Senator Collins’ amendments to continue discussions on these issues and I am hopeful that this is not where the story ends.
If you are so moved, I urge you to continue to speak out about this issue. I know it is murky. After reading and re-reading all of the proposals and who sponsored what and what each would mean for gun owners, my head may never stop spinning. But my gut tells me that our collective work is not yet finished and that there is a compromise to be found.
In a 24-hour news cycle, events are forgotten so quickly. This cannot be one of those times.