Reform of gun laws still possible and critical

  • Article by: SAMI RAHAMIM
  • Updated: July 31, 2013 - 2:24 AM
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Photo: Gary Markstein , Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/MCT

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When 20 innocent first-graders and six brave educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last December, Americans across the country offered prayers and held memorials. Members of Congress and the White House promised meaningful action.

Tragically, not every shooting is accompanied by such an appropriately powerful response. When my father Reuven was killed alongside five other men at his business, Accent Signage Systems, last September, the Minneapolis community mourned — but I didn’t expect anything more to come of it.

No longer. A powerful and growing movement, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his coalition of more than 1,000 mayors, is fighting on behalf of families like my own to improve our gun laws and help save lives. And powerful state groups, like Protect Minnesota, are fighting for common sense in capitols across America.

The stakes could not be higher. Every day, 33 Americans are murdered with a gun. Those victims also leave behind 33 families, shattered by the pull of a single trigger. The effects of these devastating acts of gun violence echo through families, friends, neighbors, and communities.

The void left by the loss of my father will never be filled. Nobody can bring him back. But we can take action to prevent other families from experiencing the horror mine has endured.

Under current federal law, background checks are only required for guns sold by federally licensed dealers. The millions of private sales that take place every year at gun shows, over the Internet, and elsewhere are not accompanied by any check at all. According to a recent national survey, as many as 40 percent of guns change hands privately with no questions asked.

That’s how Rochelle Inselman got the gun she used last year to murder her ex-boyfriend, Bret Struck, of Brooklyn Center. Since she was disqualified from buying a gun because of her history of violating restraining orders, Inselman simply went online and coordinated the private purchase of a 9mm handgun without a background check. Not long afterward, Struck was dead, his body riddled with eight bullet wounds.

In April, a minority of U.S. senators blocked legislation that would have prevented such senseless tragedies. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by NRA A-rated Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would have kept guns out of the hands of criminals like Inselman and the dangerously mentally ill by strengthening and expanding the background check system to include private sales in commercial settings.

Minnesotans are lucky to have two senators who supported this common-sense legislation, but several of the senators who voted against it are from neighboring states — North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

What’s more, corresponding legislation in the U.S. House sponsored by Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., has garnered more than 180 co-sponsors, including Minnesota Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Rick Nolan.

It’s time for their House colleagues from Minnesota — Reps. Erik Paulsen, John Kline, Collin Peterson, Tim Walz, and Michele Bachmann — to follow suit.

When the “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” rolls into Minneapolis today, I will be there alongside some of Minnesota’s most prominent mayors, faith leaders, and advocates to make our voices heard by those senators who opposed the will of more than 9 in 10 Americans.

I never thought I would count my own father as one of the 33 Americans who are murdered with a gun every day in this country. But gun violence doesn’t discriminate by race, gender, or socioeconomic status. When the trigger is pulled, none of that matters.

It’s time to honor the memory of my father — and the thousands of gun violence victims every year — by demanding action from Congress before we lose even more loved ones.

Let’s not wait until the next tragedy.

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Sami Rahamim, 17, is a gun violence prevention advocate in Minneapolis. His father Reuven was killed in the Accent Signage workplace shooting on Sept. 27, 2012.

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