The tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook School took place almost one year ago. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 young children and six teachers lost their lives in one of the most horrific acts of gun violence this country has ever known.
Every time there is a mass shooting in this country we say that something must be done. Yet even after this heartbreaking tragedy at Newtown, Congress has failed to pass any legislation to strengthen our national gun laws.
America has a problem with gun violence. On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population. More than 31,000 people are killed by gun violence in our country each year.
We just marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Brady Bill. The Brady Background Check is an effective tool that has blocked more than 2 million purchases, keeping guns away from convicted felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people. A large number have been fugitives. Sadly, about 60 percent of gun sales undergo this background check while approximately 40 percent are sold with no questions asked, including many online sales.
Now it is time for Congress to finish the job and make a good thing even better by closing the loopholes that allow prohibited persons from buying guns. Background checks need to be expanded to cover all gun sales, including those sold on the Internet and at gun shows.
Even the National Rifle Association has admitted that "hundreds of thousands" of firearms are sold each year by unlicensed sellers at gun shows. Who ends up with these guns?
The unrecorded nature of these sales makes it impossible to pinpoint all gun show sales, but we know they are a major supply source for criminals.
The tragic consequences of no-check gun sales are that dangerous people are able to get their hands on guns far too easily, and people are often killed or are seriously injured as a result. This loophole has dangerous consequences.
Nine out of ten Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.
Last April, though a majority of U.S. senators supported expanding background checks to online and gun show sales, the Senate failed to pass even this responsible common-sense law.
Now there's a bipartisan bill before Congress (HR1565) to expand background checks to online sales and gun show sales.
Tell Congress that you want the Brady Background Checks expanded to include all gun sales. Our children deserve better.
Toni Shellen is president of the Tri-City Alameda County Chapter Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.