The loss of life in Las Vegas this week was even more tragic because it was preventable. In spite of what the gun lobby would like us to believe, we can and must make this country safe from gun violence.
In 1996, a shooting spree in a gift shop in Tasmania left 35 people dead—the most deadly mass shooting in the country’s history. In the immediate aftermath, Australia passed unified and sweeping gun reforms. Politicians took a patchwork of weak or non-existing licensing and registration requirements and replaced them with rules that allowed gun ownership only for specific purposes. Before the change of laws, Australia experienced a mass shooting nearly once a year. Since that change, there have been none. In the US, since 1996, there have been 69 mass shootings, leaving more than 600 people dead. That was until Sunday night. The Las Vegas tragedy is the 70th.
Study after study has shown us that the proliferation of guns in a developed nation has direct correlation to the number of deaths by firearms. And yet, we have consistently lacked the political courage to do something about it. Having worked as an advocate for common sense gun laws, I know first hand how hard it is to make change from the outside. This is a change that must come from within our legislatures. It must come from our elected officials. This truth is at the core of why I, a first time candidate, am running for New Jersey State Assembly in the 21st District.
I am running against incumbents who have 100% approval ratings by the NRA. When politicians repeatedly vote against safe and sane gun laws, against 10-round ammunition magazine limits, against firearms safety training and background checks, they are endangering your health and safety and that of your children.
Yes, we are marginally safer from mass shootings here in New Jersey than our fellow citizens in Nevada. Statistics tell us that the states with the weakest gun laws are the ones whose citizens suffer the most from gun violence. But gun trafficking is widespread and hard to combat, so we too are vulnerable. There are real steps that elected officials can take to prevent tragedy here at home. I urge you to vote for candidates who support these steps, and if you can’t find them — to join me, and run for office yourself:
- Mandate gun safety training for all gun purchasers
- Implement additional magazine capacity limits
- Close deadly loopholes in private party and gun show sales
- Require speedier reporting of mental illness episodes to the national background check database
- Mandate the automatic disclosure of gun purchases to insurance providers
- Institute Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) to allow family and law enforcement to seek a restraining order to seize an individual's firearms for a limited period of time with an appeals process.
- Stop the flow of guns through the Iron Pipeline from states with easy access to firearms into the Northeast Corridor
- Address root causes of gun violence in disadvantaged communities, including the opioid trade, suffering school systems, the lack of jobs and a street culture that rewards criminal behavior.
The tragedy in Las Vegas is another bloodstained page in a dreadful chapter in American history. I would like to be able to tell you that you can make an impact by writing your legislator. But the truth is, after nearly five years of grass-roots advocacy, I know now that the most actionable thing we can do is to go to the polls. If you are as horrified as I am by the events in Las Vegas, please make a vow to yourself. Starting with this November 7th, make sure that every Election Day from now on, you find out your candidates’ positions on gun violence, and that you use that information every time you vote.
Lacey Rzeszowski is the Democratic Candidate for State Assembly in the New Jersey's 21st Legislative District.