Editorial

Tone down the rhetoric — and pass tougher gun laws

Posted

In the wake of the country’s three most recent mass shootings, one of which has been classified as a hate crime, a conversation about white supremacy has entered the national narrative.

On Aug. 3, 22 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The next day, another gunman murdered nine people in Dayton, Ohio. The week before, a man shot and killed three people at a food festival in Gilroy, Calif.

The El Paso shooting was the seventh-deadliest in modern U.S. history. Authorities discovered what they believe to be the El Paso shooter’s racist manifesto online, which, in many ways, mirrors President Trump’s recent rhetoric.

“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the white gunman wrote. “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

“This is an invasion,” Trump said at a rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., in May, referring to asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. An audience member responded, “Shoot them!” Any other president would have immediately condemned the remark. Not Trump. He laughed and joked about it, quipping, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with a statement like that,” according to The Washington Post.

After the El Paso shooting, many elected officials around the country condemned the president’s hateful rhetoric. But when states try to enact their own laws and restrict access to assault weapons to create safer environments in lieu of swift federal action, they are met with backlash. Many people claim that knives should then be banned, because they, too, can be used as tools for murder. But a knife can’t kill 20 or 30 people in under a minute.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been consistent in his efforts to stifle the violent pattern of mass murders, which has become a national crisis unparalleled around the globe. The U.S. has the 28th highest death rate from gun violence in the world, far greater than any other wealthy country, according to NPR.

In 2013, shortly after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Cuomo shifted his focus to serious gun control legislation and signed the NY SAFE Act. The law stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns by requiring universal background checks, increases penalties for the illegal use of firearms and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country.

“For hunters, sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns,” Cuomo said.

The governor put forth a four-point plan last week to increase gun safety across the country. Congress should seriously consider it. The plan, titled the “Make America Safer Pledge,” has four goals: outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; create a mental health database; pass universal background checks; and enact “red flag” legislation.

Red-flag laws authorize courts to issue special orders of protection that allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are deemed by judges to be dangers to themselves or others. They have been implemented in a few states around the country.

New York continues to make strides — the state recently passed legislation to ban arming schoolteachers. While this progress is commendable, we must all apply pressure to our federal officials to make much-needed changes across the nation so all Americans can once again live without fear. Contact your lawmakers and tell them to pass Cuomo’s four-point plan.

To read more about gun safety and legislation, check out the Herald’s 2018 investigative series “Safety and the Second” at www.liherald.com.

Who to contact

To show your support for tougher gun legislation, write to these federal lawmakers. The more letters and emails they receive, the more forcefully they can make the case that people at last want real change.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice

District Office

229 7th St., Suite 300

Garden City, N.Y. 11530

(516) 739-3008

U.S. Rep. Peter King

Massapequa Park District Office

1003 Park Blvd.

Massapequa Park, N.Y. 11762

(516) 541-4225

pete.king@mail.house.gov

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi

Huntington Office

478A Park Ave.

Huntington, N.Y. 11743

(631) 923-4100