President Obama had some harsh words for the Republican refusal to pass a bill that would prevent suspected terrorists on the FBI’s no-fly list from purchasing weapons, a move that was derided by the New York Times as a “cowardly vote.” Indeed, it is a truly bizarre set of events that sees the Republican Party inciting hate and fear against refugees from Syria over national security concerns, but then refuse to deal with the recklessly lax laws that allows terrorists like the San Bernardino shooters to legally purchase assault rifles, armored vests, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Every single Republican except Mark Kirk (R-IL) voted against the bill, just a week after House Republicans passed a bill to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America.
This weekend, our hearts are with the people of San Bernardino—another American community shattered by unspeakable violence. We salute the first responders—the police, the SWAT teams, the EMTs—who responded so quickly, with such courage, and saved lives. We pray for the injured as they fight to recover from their wounds.
Most of all, we stand with 14 families whose hearts are broken. We’re learning more about their loved ones—the men and women, the beautiful lives, that were lost. They were doing what so many of us do this time of year—enjoying the holidays. Celebrating with each other. Rejoicing in the bonds of friendship and community that bind us together, as Americans. Their deaths are an absolute tragedy, not just for San Bernardino, but for our country.
More broadly, this tragedy reminds us of our obligation to do everything in our power, together, to keep our communities safe. We know that the killers in San Bernardino used military-style assault weapons—weapons of war—to kill as many people as they could. It’s another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.
For example, right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now. We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but—at a bare minimum—we shouldn’t be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans.
Today in San Bernardino, investigators are searching for answers. Across our country, our law enforcement professionals are tireless. They’re working around the clock—as always—to protect our communities. As President, my highest priority is the security and safety of the American people. This is work that should unite us all—as Americans—so that we’re doing everything in our power to defend our country. That’s how we can honor the lives we lost in San Bernardino. That’s how we can send a message to all those who would try to hurt us. We are Americans. We will uphold our values—a free and open society. We are strong. And we are resilient. And we will not be terrorized.
It is a truly insane set of circumstances that sees the Republican lawmakers in Congress so beholden to the financial and political support of the National Rifle Association that they refuse to pass any law that would make it mildly inconvenient for people to purchase guns, let alone any real restrictions that would impede either the mentally ill or suspected terrorists from acquiring the deadly weapons used in mass murders every day this year. The right wing sees threats in the faces of desperate women and children and security in the idea of an assault rifle in every home. It is a disturbed and twisted worldview that is not appropriate for governing a civilized nation.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.