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As California Reels from Thousand Oaks Shooting, America Must Confront the Awful Truth About Gun Violence

Late last night, a gunman opened fire at a country music bar in Thousands Oaks, California, and killed twelve people, including a Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy. This mass shooting comes less than two weeks after a gunman targeted the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed twelve people inside. What happened last night, and what needs to happen to stop this seemingly endless bloodshed?

Attack at the Borderline

The Borderline Bar and Grill lies in Thousand Oaks, a typically sleepy upscale bedroom community just west of the Los Angeles County line. It’s one of those well-heeled suburbs that tends to make its way onto glossy magazines’ lists of “America’s Safest Communities” and “Best Places to Raise Your Family”. One typically doesn’t read about horrific shootings happening here.

Yet last night, the entire state and nation were shocked to see reports of an active shooter spraying bullets inside the Borderline. As of this morning, thirteen victims are reported dead, including Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus. And in a heart-wrenching twist of fate, several of the people inside Borderline last night were survivors of last year’s 1 October Las Vegas Shooting that targeted the Route 91 country music festival.

Earlier today, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office identified the suspected shooter as Ian David Long. He was a former Marine and Afghanistan War veteran who was thought to be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as he had previous run-in’s with local law enforcement. Long was found dead when other police officers entered the bar, and he was found with a .45 caliber Glock handgun with a high-capacity magazine attached.

“This failure to act is cowardice of epic proportions. We may not be able to stop all gun violence, but that doesn’t mean Republicans should be allowed to bury their heads in the sand and not to — to stop any of it.”
– U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California)

In the hours after the shooting, newly reelected Senator Dianne Feinstein held nothing back when issuing her official statement: “A renewed ban on military style assault weapons—which have no place in civilian society—is ready for a vote. A bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines is ready for a vote. A bill to ban bump stocks, which Republicans agree should be illegal, is ready for a vote. A bill to close the gun show and online loopholes is ready for a vote. Bills to prevent terrorists from buying guns, keep guns away from domestic abusers and allow loved ones to get a gun violence restraining order, each is ready for a vote.”

Feinstein continued, “This failure to act is cowardice of epic proportions. We may not be able to stop all gun violence, but that doesn’t mean Republicans should be allowed to bury their heads in the sand and not to — to stop any of it.”

For nearly eight years, it’s been an eerily familiar script: After the Tucson shooting that targeted then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), after the Aurora theater shooting and Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, after the San Bernardino Shooting, after the attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, after our own 1 October Shooting and the attack on a Sutherland Springs church, after the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and after the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. We hear plenty of calls for “thoughts and prayers”, but ultimately there’s little or no change to federal gun laws. While California and a few other states have made efforts to strengthen their own gun laws in the past six years, the lack of a uniform federal standard allows for a sort of “lowest common denominator” where other states’ lax gun laws provide a convenient loophole for aspiring mass shooters everywhere.

When will it finally be #Enough?

In her victory speech earlier this week, Senator-elect Jacky Rosen (D) vowed to push for gun safety legislation. That came on the heels of gun violence being a key issue that influenced this year’s election, one that probably motivated thousands of voters young and mature to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

Should Governor-elect Steve Sisolak (D) follow through on his promise to strengthen Nevada’s gun safety laws (perhaps beginning with enforcing the background checks law that’s already on the books), that will probably have an impact on reducing overall gun violence here in Nevada and ending our reputation as one of those “lax gun law states” that exports guns that are used in crimes elsewhere. But in order to make greater progress in curbing gun violence nationwide, we ultimately need a nationwide solution.

In many ways, America’s gun violence epidemic is an all too preventable crisis. There are several legislative actions Congress can take to address this ongoing violence. It’s simply a matter of whether enough Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are willing to finally take action, and whether enough Democrats are willing to make this a real priority on Capitol Hill.

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