December 2018 Congressional Wins and Citizen Activism

December 2018 Congressional Wins and Citizen Activism

Congressional Wins and Citizen Activism: Optimism on Rise for Action on Common-sense Gun Reform

Almost all the candidates endorsed by leading gun reform advocacy groups were elected on November 6, with a few still to be determined, indicating a “cultural shift” away from the NRA and toward gun safety as a top electable issue. As a matter of fact, at least 15 Democratic House candidates proudly bearing their “F” ratings from the NRA defeated Republican candidates with “A” NRA ratings! (Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2018) As the Giffords PAC proclaimed after the election, “The House majority is now in lockstep with the majority of the American people in the belief that our schools, our churches, our places of work, our streets should be safe from gun violence.” The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said, “We have an opportunity to draft, pass, and implement life-saving legislation and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”

Realistically, of course, the NRA isn’t going anywhere and will most likely try even harder to obstruct any attempts in the House to pass meaningful reform. As to the Senate, it has been reported that Republican Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania is still interested in finding a path forward for universal background checks legislation, but “Obstructionist Mitch” will most assuredly refuse to consider any legislation passed by the House UNLESS somehow the pressure from the public and from House members is enough for Senators to reassess whether the price of thwarting progress is too high. Perhaps then there just might be a chance for cooperation. Whether or not that happens, one thing is certain: Democratic House members will want their Republican colleagues to go on record against a majority of voters in the country who favor common-sense gun safety reform legislation.

Meanwhile Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promised after the latest mass shooting in California to move quickly to consider such gun legislation next year, suggesting universal background checks would be the first approach. Democrat Mike Thompson of California will be reappointed as Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and has already indicated that he will introduce legislation in the first weeks of the 116th Congress, mandating background checks on all gun sales. Likewise, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), the incoming House Judiciary Committee Chair, stated he will work expeditiously to get this legislation reported out of committee.

Alas, we must never forget the vital role the student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has played in affecting this cultural shift away from the NRA and toward gun reform. And joining these student voices after the latest horrific mass slaughter of fellow human beings in Thousand Oaks, California, are thousands of physicians and other medical professionals, crying out with one voice that gun violence is indeed a national public-health crisis. After being admonished by the NRA to “stay in their own lane,” these health professionals began tweeting under the hashtags #thisisourlane” and “#thisismylane,” sharing personal stories about desperately trying to piece bodies back together again after gun violence or having to tell hysterical family members that their loved one will never come home again. Here are two examples of these many tweets:

I am an experienced critical care nurse. I have had to hide blood & brain matter on stretchers from parents. I have had to wrap these damaged skulls with cling gauze to keep the brain matter from spilling out. This is the reality of gun violence.

As a rehab doc, let me mention lifetimes in wheelchairs with SCI, useless arms from brachial plexus destruction, colostomies from belly destruction and years of dependence with TBI.” (note: SCI: spinal cord injuries; TBI: traumatic brain injuries)

Our Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence stands with groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence et al, student activists, and health professionals. We want to work with them so that together we ensure these elected and re-elected legislators will work to their fullest potential to make us all safer, in particular by expanding background checks; reinstating the assault weapons ban and ban of high-capacity magazines; and passing extreme risk protective laws (ERPO or “red flag” laws).

I have acted as chair of this task force off and on since December 14, 2012, when a deranged man with easy access to weapons from his home gunned down twenty innocent children and six adult educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A year earlier, as Chair of the Public Policy Committee, we responded to the horrific events in Tucson, when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at the time remained unconscious and in critical condition from an assassin’s semi-automatic gun rampage, which claimed the lives of six other innocent people and injured many more as they attended one of her many “Congress on the Corner” constituent events. These events have been followed by so many like them, yet our federal legislators have been too cowardly to act.

Finally, for the first time in such a long time, we have a powerful and positive path forward. Let us stay focused and not get lost along the way. Please contact me at if you would like to get involved with our task force.

— Shelly Livingston, Vice Chair, Committee on Public Policy and Political Action, and Acting Co-Chair, Task Force to Prevent Gun Violence