Recently Newtown, Connecticut marked the six month anniversary of the horrific Sandy Hook elementary school murders. Most of us will carry forever the memory of where we were when we first heard 20 first graders and six teachers were brutally shot, adding to our recollections of tragedies such as Columbine, 9/11 and even the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We mark our lives by those haunting milestones burned in our memories and vow to never forget.
By STACEY NEWMAN
Special to The Star
Since last December our country has suffered 14 mass shootings and countless small children shooting themselves and others because of guns that adults left carelessly available. All together since Dec. 14, 2012, 5,248 people across the country have been murdered as reported in the media. Add in the 60 percent of deaths by guns from suicides which are rarely reported, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that number of gun deaths is more accurately already over 15,000 this year. Less than six months after Newtown the number of people killed by guns surpassed the number of American troops killed during the entire Iraq War from 2003 to 2010.
Ten state legislatures this year have addressed gun violence by passing prevention bills including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming. These prevention bills include expansion of criminal background checks, restricting the size of gun magazines and tighter regulations on assault weapons.
Missouris answer to preventing more gun deaths?
Following Kansas lead, we sent H.B. 436 to our governors desk, which would nullify all federal gun laws and make it a crime for federal agents to attempt to enforce them. Seriously. This is just one of the 25 NRA-sponsored bills that we spent hours debating in the legislature this past session (although you were promised bills creating jobs and education funding via campaign ads).
Police chiefs and local mayors with Mayors Against Illegal Guns routinely cite the skyrocketing gun violence choke-holding our urban/suburban communities as emergency room pediatricians and medical specialists work around the clock to save victims. On one recent June night in St. Louis, 17 people were shot in seven different incidents. Four days later, four people were shot and killed in a murder-suicide at a Cherokee Street business a St. Louis mass shooting that made national news. The best the GOP leadership in Missouris legislature can do to save lives is to attempt to nullify federal law, a clearly unconstitutional approach?
I understand the hold the NRA lobby has on House Speaker Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican, and House Floor Leader John Diehl, a Town & Country Republican, both who are practicing attorneys in respectable firms and who should know the limits and settled restrictions of the U.S. constitution. But I have a very difficult time understanding why these St. Louis legislators are so willing to promote legislation that callously ignores the pain and suffering that gun violence victims families must live with. Along with Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, a St. Charles Republican, they hold the distinct power in deciding what bills advance and what bills die.
There are sensible easy solutions that 85 percent of all Missourians want. I filed a bill, H.B. 187, mandating universal criminal background checks for all Missouri gun sales, including online and gun show sales. HB 187 was never granted a hearing although it was introduced at the beginning of last session in January. Similar to the legislation that U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, sponsored and almost 91 percent of Americans overwhelmingly favor, my bill would prevent criminals and those with mental illness from easy access to firearms. Universal background checks are simply a first step in lowering gun violence statistics but a step that a huge majority of us, including NRA members and gun owners passionately want.
I fully expect another crop of NRA bills expanding firearm access far and wide to be filed next year. I also predict that gun violence will keep taking its toll on Missourians even though I fervently hope our youngest babies and children will be spared.
I urge Gov. Jay Nixon to veto H.B. 436 and avoid definite federal court challenges to these inane nullification efforts. Im not alone. More than 4250 Missourians to date in almost every zip code across the state have added their names to petitions also demanding our governor use his veto pen on H.B. 436.
Gov. Nixon, please listen to the people and tell the NRA their solution is completely unacceptable.
Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, represents the 87th District in St. Louis County. She is the chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus.