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Earl B.
Democrat OR 3

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  • Gun Violence and the Path Forward

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, traditionally we start the new year on a note of hope. Notwithstanding troubled headlines and difficulties home and abroad, the new year is an opportunity to consider the future afresh, to reflect on opportunities, past accomplishments, and new opportunities.

    I appreciate President Obama beginning the new year with a continued focus on gun safety. His modest proposal was greeted with predictable opposition and scorn as some Republican politicians attempted to distort it all out of proportion and to change the subject to a nonissue: confiscation of the guns of law-abiding Americans when, in fact, virtually all responsible American gun owners support reasonable background checks to make it more difficult for people we all agree should not be armed to get guns.

    It is interesting to speculate on what would have been the response in today's superheated, contentious political climate with the efforts of a generation ago to reduce the carnage on our highways from unnecessary auto deaths or the hundreds of thousands of people who became addicted to cigarettes and died of cancer and heart disease. There would have been screams of outrage about the nanny state and political correctness, that the government was going to take cigarettes away from people because it knew what was best for them. It was going to force people to pay unconscionable levels of tax that would fall on the poor, that a [[Page H19]] more aggressive auto engineering program was the government telling the private sector and the consumer what was best for them, that it would drive up the cost of automobiles, and that it would have law enforcement interfere with people having an innocent drink on a night on the town.

    Most telling would have been the argument that this really wouldn't make any difference, that none of these steps would stop people from smoking or reckless driving on the roadways. People would still die.

    Those excuses for inaction are demonstrably false a generation later. We have cut the rates of adult smoking in half and saved millions of lives. The carnage on our highways has been dramatically reduced and American families are safer.

    It is important to have perspective going forward. Yes, there is no single solution to gun violence. But the fact remains that the United States is unique among developed countries, being unable to protect our families from unacceptable levels of death at the hands of the deranged or the careless.

    There are things we can do to make a difference, and the public is willing to accept them. I begin this new year hopeful that we don't have to accept Capitol Hill as an island of denial, whether it is the threat from climate change or the potential to do something about gun violence to make our families safer.

    Last year, there were times when we in Congress came together and produced some constructive results. At the State and local level, people are not waiting for our Republican colleagues to come to their senses to deal with carbon pollution or gun violence. They are taking action.

    I am hopeful that we will be able to broaden the conversation about what, in fact, we can do: tone down the rhetoric and find steps on issues that are both contentious and even those where there is basically no disagreement but we simply haven't gotten around to taking action.

    {time} 1015 There are clear opportunities for us to broaden that agenda. We can avert a crisis in Gaza from a lack of water and adequate sanitation. We could pass Representative Murphy's bipartisan mental health bill. We could link food and farm policy with new awareness and research.

    Let's not in 2016 have the opportunities for cooperation and progress drowned with political vitriol. Let's cooperate where we can, focus on solutions even where we can't, and set the stage for giving Americans what they deserve: a government not in denial, a Congress willing to cooperate and to face problems, large and small, so as to make progress rather than to revel in discord and hyperbole in order to win votes in contentious primaries. Let's focus on what we can get done and do it. We will feel better, and the American public will be better served.


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