Moving forward to prevent gun violence

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 2/4/2019, 11:20 a.m.
When 26-year-old Stockton, California, Councilman Michael Tubbs was elected in 2016 as Stockton’s first Black mayor

Children’s Defense Fund

When 26-year-old Stockton, California, Councilman Michael Tubbs was elected in 2016 as Stockton’s first Black mayor, its youngest mayor ever – and the youngest mayor in U.S. history of a city with a population of at least 100,000 – he had a mission to make positive change in his hometown.

Last year, the city made progress toward a key goal: reducing gun violence.

Stockton police reported 40 percent fewer homicides and 31 percent fewer shootings between 2017 and 2018, and said increased police resources and community involvement are making a difference.

Mayor Tubbs shared his thanks in a social media post: “The murder of my cousin is what brought me back to Stockton after college and I’ve spent the last 6 years as an elected official focused on reducing shootings and homicides and making our community safer. … I want to thank Stockton Police Department, the Office of Violence Prevention and community partners like Friends Outside, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin and Advance Peace for the amazing work they did in 2018. Let’s continue in 2019.”

Stockton isn’t the only place making progress on gun violence. Across our nation, state leaders have responded to our children’s cries and advanced common sense gun violence prevention measures to keep them safe.

Last year, more than half of all states passed at least one gun violence prevention measure:

• Eleven states enacted laws to keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic abuse.

• Nine states banned bump stocks or strengthened existing bans.

• Eight states and D.C. enacted Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that empower families and law enforcement officers to temporarily limit gun access for those who pose a danger to themselves or others.

• Seven states added new background check requirements or strengthened existing requirements. In total, 20 states and D.C. currently extend background checks beyond federal requirements.

The majority of these laws were enacted in the months after the Parkland shooting – a testament to the courageous children and youths who organized and demanded leaders protect children, not guns.

There have also been signs of positive progress at the federal level. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a ban on bump stocks which will take effect on March 26 and remove these dangerous devices which can be attached to semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

Bump stocks were used by the gunman who killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music concert in 2017. The ban prohibits future sales of bump stocks and requires current bump stock owners to destroy the devices or turn them in.

The midterm elections ushered a “Gun Sense” majority into Congress and established gun violence prevention as a national moral imperative and top legislative priority.

Most notably, on Jan. 8, Congress introduced the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would require universal background checks for all gun sales, not just sales by licensed gun dealers, which is what current law requires.

In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, 92 percent of American voters supported these checks. This bill is a critical step towards keeping guns out of the hands of those who would use them to harm our children. While background checks don’t prevent legal gun purchases, they could prevent child and teen gun deaths.