Epidemic of Gun Deaths Embolden Dems to Call for Universal Background Checks But More is Needed

Congressman Steve Israel (D-Long Island) is one of the Democrats stepping up calls for Congress to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Steve Israel (D-Long Island) is one of the Democrats stepping up calls for Congress to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Gun violence prevention advocates won one victory in May – Oregon passed universal background checks – but suffered a bigger loss, as Texas voted to allow concealed carry of guns on campuses of public colleges across the state. This is despite the fact that the most famous thing to happen at the University of Texas-Austin was the first mass shooting in America, on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and used a sniper to kill 16 and wound 31.

Ironically, Oregon, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, just this month was the setting for the latest campus massacre.

Also this month, a six year old murdered his three-year old sibling with his father’s gun, kept loaded, atop their refrigerator.

Indeed, roughly every week, a toddler is killed or kills with a gun. How many more are added to the list, provided in mid-April by Colette Martin, of Moms Demand Action, which had already produced 11 children under the age of 15 who had been shot accidentally so far that month.

“It’s shocking to me – as I investigate laws at states – because the federal is useless – depending on zipcode, leaving a loaded gun on a coffee table is either a crime or nothing,” Martin told a Gun Violence Prevention forum at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck, “That’s why we read stories every day that a child is shot accidentally. We are not talking suicide or domestic violence.”

Her list included 5 year olds shooting 2 year olds; a 15 year old in Brooklyn who shot himself in the chest; in Houston, a 5 year old was shot by 4 year old (the fourth in 3 weeks); a mom’s boyfriend, cleaning his gun, accidentally shot a 9 year old.

“The NRA won’t tell you but two children a week will die this way, through accidental gunshot wounds – many more hurt, life changing injuries – a pattern so predictable. Over 100 kids a year will be dead because someone didn’t store gun properly.

“Is there any product that kills that many kids that we’re not regulating?

“It should be a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to children –a punishable crime. That is a glaring omission from New York’s Safe Act,” she says.

That’s also the basis for a proposed law in New York, Nicholas’ Law – named for a 12 year old killed by playing at friend’s house where unsecured loaded gun and friend shot him, accidentally.

Other legislative actions that need to happen nationally:

Repealing laws that ban pediatricians from raising questions about guns in the home and recommending they be locked up (such as in Florida).

Repealing Stand Your Ground (aka “License to Kill”), another law written by the NRA and ALEC (a front for the Koch Brothers) and spread like cancer among the states, starting in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush.

Changing the requirements to purchase and possess guns. Norman Siegel, a New York civil rights lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to the New York Times in December proposed a nationwide state registration program, similar to motor vehicle registration. “Every two years the owner of a gun would be required to bring his or her weapon in for inspection and re-registration. If the owner no longer possesses the weapon, he or she should be required to explain what happened to the gun. Perhaps under such a program we, as a nation, can realistically ameliorate the problem of guns winding up in the hands of lawbreakers and/or the mentally ill.”

And for those who charge that gun registration is somehow violating 2nd Amendment rights, look to the oppressive Voter ID and registration requirements being passed around the country which effectively put barriers in front of citizens’ right to vote.

Moreover, gun rights fanatics have no problem cancelling out the First Amendment’s freedom of speech in banning pediatricians from discussing gun safety with their patients’ families.

Gun violence is not a 2nd amendment issue. It is a public health issue, and should be treated in the same way. And if anything violates the founding premise of this country, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it is the outsized weight given to so-called gun rights which never actually existed.

“This family’s only child is gone. It’s not just a legislative change, it’s part of the cultural change – the social norming that has to happen as with drunk driving,” she says, referring to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the way they insinuated a kind of moral code into everyday life.

Governor Cuomo seized upon the massacre Sandy Hook Elementary School as a rare moment when he could pass Safe Act.

But other states – the gun happy ones, the free-range ones, the Live Free or Die ones (and so they die) – have gone the other way – in Florida, doctors are banned (no matter the inconvenient First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, or even the Hippocratic oath) from even asking parents if there is a gun in the home, in order to urge safe storage to prevent such tragedies as Nicholas’ and the others, a move that is being copied by other states, prompting New York Times columnist Charles Blow to raise the question, “Has the NRA Won?”

And the real challenge is the latest move by the NRA in the bought-and-paid-for Congress: to force states with gun regulations to have “reciprocity” – essentially to make a gun permit like a drivers license – with states that have virtually no restrictions (and in the case of one Georgia town, which mandate every family have a gun) – in a blatant disregard of states rights, in yet another instance when hypocrisy rules the day if it is convenient.

“We have to fight reciprocity,” State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel said during the forum. “Every state has their rights – who can own a gun. New York has strong laws, but in Vermont, you only need to be 16 years of age and have a drivers license and you can have a gun.” What reciprocity means is that if you have a gun permit in one state, you can have a gun – transfer guns, drive interstate (now illegal) – scary for someone like NY.” So if a state like Texas allows concealed guns everywhere (except the State House) with no questions asked, even a person with a mental condition, a veteran with PTSD or a domestic abuser, can bring their gun to New York.

As the level of gun violence has only escalated, the NRA has come back with more and more absurd statements (such as the time after a tragedy is no time to consider what to do about it), or a move to ease access to guns.

If anything gives lie to the absurdity, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” and the even more absurd statement that the way to reduce gun violence is to make guns even more prevalent, it is the fact that gun violence kills 2500 children each year. You can also look to the murder of police officers, who are clearly “good guys” whose guns could not stop the bad guy who shot first.

In Chicago, just over Memorial Day weekend, 40 people were shot including a 4 year old girl, with nine dead, including,a 15-year old boy, Nation of Change reported.

“So far, there have been 18,760 gun incidents this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, resulting in 4,830 deaths and the death or injury of 249 children.”

There are practical things that can be done to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 gun deaths a year – that’s equivalent to a 9/11 a month – having nothing to do with violating the 2 nd Amendment or taking guns away from the ostensibly “law abiding” people (isn’t it odd that people are “law abiding” until they aren’t?)

But before we get into the long list of commonsense steps that should be taking immediately, without having any impact whatsoever on the so-called “law abiding” gunowners, there is this:

Gun Manufacturers Profit Incentive: Smart Guns

Much is made of the fact that the NRA, which is such an outsized powerhouse scaring the beejeebees out of politicians, serves the interests of gun manufacturers, not the ordinary members (a majority of whom support universal background checks and other commonsense measures).

In fact, the NRA was in favor of universal background checks until they were against them, and now, whenever there is a massacre, they call for more guns – armed guards at schools and churches, concealed carry at college campuses, in fact, everywhere but in Congress and Houses of Legislature.

So just like the corruption in FIFA won’t be rooted out politically, but when Nike and other sponsors exert their power, gun manufacturers have to see profit in being more socially conscious.

Jeb Bush speaking to 30,000 at the NRA convention, said Obama should be disarming ISIS rather than law-abiding Americans – the problem is that terrorists in the US have a clear shot at obtaining military-grade weapons and high-capacity ammo clips- while, in fact, DoD has radiofrequency controls in its military weapons so they can locate guns gone missing into the wrong hands. (Jeb! casually dismissed the Oregon shooting as “stuff happens”.)

Question is: why aren’t there ‘smart guns’ like ‘smart phones’ that can only be used by the person whose hand print is identified with the gun? Or, for that matter, a locater as a smart phone has when it is stolen, and can be located and disarmed remotely?

If the gun manufacturers would see themselves as, say, Apple Computers, coming out with the newest, latest gun that replaces the older gun, they could see big profits in sensible gun measure: namely, the same ID access that smart-phones now have: make the gun so that it can only be used by the owner. If the gun-owner is in fact law-abiding, they would have no problem with that, and would relish the idea of a gun not being snapped up by the “bad guy” (or a child) and used to kill their loved ones.

Think of the increased profits, if 100 million guns had to be replaced! Gun dealers could offer those nifty trade-in deals!

Change Tactics

The gun nuts have also long ceased being credible in arguing for “self-defense” and the “homespun, family values sport of hunting” when they refuse to allow a ban on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that kill dozens in a blink of an eye. This is about the fantasy of being able to take down the government – something that the 2nd Amendment never envisioned, since it was intended to provide a defense for the fledgling democratic government in the absence of a standing army -like a National Guard.

It’s been 15 years since the Million Mom March in Washington DC (remember how they said if George W Bush were elected, there would be an office in the West Wing for the NRA? They were right.) Things clearly went downhill from there – for example, allowing the 1994 Assault Weapons ban to lapse.

Despite the rise of organizations like Moms Demand Action, Moms Rising, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown and scores of others (typically, tragically, by family members like Richard Martinez whose lives have been forever destroyed by gun violence), Congress, in the pocket of the gun lobby, has refused to budge, and in the states, the reaction to what was considered the most heinous tragedy of all, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was to free up, not tighten, gun restrictions (New York’s Safe Act was the exception).

It’s time to change tactics and the dynamics.

Abortions are constitutionally protected but the anti-choice movement has been able to put all sorts of legal and financial impediments that make it impossible for women to exercise their Constitutionally protected rights.

The gun violence prevention advocates should adopt some of these methods. For example:

State requirements: Just as California laws regarding automobiles and the chemicals industry have forced those industries to change their manufacture to be more environmentally friendly, states could impose requirements on gun manufacturers that every gun be a smart-gun; increase taxes on ammunition (like they do on cigarettes) and fees on gun permits (like voting IDs)

Make gun manufacturers and dealers liable when their product is inappropriately used (as so many other manufacturers are – gun manufacturers are somehow exempted.)

Require gun owners to take out liability insurance so that victims’ families can be adequately compensated.

Institute laws making parents/guardians responsible for safe storage, and criminally liable if a child commits a crime with their gun. For example, no one questioned where the 15 year old Jared Michael Padgett, of Portland, Oregon, obtained the gun he used to kill freshman Emilio Hoffman and wound teacher Todd Rispler before killing himself. Or where 14 year old Jaylen Fryberg, a popular student at Marysville, Wash. high school,, got the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill a girl and strike four others in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. There were no consequences for whoever obtained the guns that these minors used to murder innocents.

Put a fee on ammunition and gun purchases to support a victims fund.

Boycott college campuses that allow guns: Parents should contact colleges and ask if guns are allowed, and if so, tell them you won’t allow your child to apply there.

“I am, a huge believer that the American people can fix this,” Martin says. “I’ve lost faith in Congress, lost faith in the federal government, lost faith in the NRA – I was never much of a fan, my father tore up his NRA card in1980s, it was apparent to him what they were about: politicizing, a money racket, they are not standing for his ideals.

“Most gun owners are not in NRA… 90% of legitimate legal gun owners don’t support NRA. Who is supporting the NRA? The gun manufacturers – Smith-Wesson, Baretta. It’s no mystery that’s who they serve – the NRA is a front for gun manufacturers.

“Their job is to fend off, violently, any regulation that will impact the sale of their product – every gun that ends up on the street, used in a crime, begins as a legal gun –it was first sold as a legal gun – no illegal gun manufacturing plant anywhere.”

(And every criminal or maniac who uses a gun starts off as a noncriminal, non-maniac. Actually, you could add that whenever there is a massacre – the more heinous that it is – gun sales go up because LaPierre warns that the government will finally confiscate guns.)

Colette adds, “I’m a gun owner and here’s the impact [the NY Safe Act] had on me (she gestures, zero). I don’t have AR 15s in my basement – New York by any measure has done a great job keeping its citizens safe -the illegal street variety and more difficult gun violence.

“I am here today to deal with children’s and guns –standard, practical storage protocols. If you have children and guns in house, lock one of them up,” she said, drawing a laugh.

“1/3 of families own at least one gun – it behooves us to ask how it is stored at home.”

But in the absence of law, there are more practical actions parents should take: “Before you allow your child to go for a playdate, ask are there guns in house That’s not political, but safety. That’s a house I don’t want my kid playing unattended

It’s no more offensive than asking if there is a pool, or a dog. It’s not easy to plan a funeral for a 12 year old – that’s inconvenient.

“How many of these parents whose kids were shot this month would do anything to go back in time and ask that question. It’s not political, not offensive- not out of order to ask about the safety.”

Martin also refutes the claim that safe storage of guns at home will somehow interfere with the ability (rare) to defend from an intruder. She says that evidence shows that it takes a gun owner “fractions of seconds” to get a gun out of a safebox and load it.

In August, Fox & friends did 5 part gun safety series and part 3 featured expert marksmen, firearms dealer and trainer Rob Pincus, who did a live demo showing how long it took in an incidence of home invasion. Someone banged the door down downstairs, he went to the gun safe’s numeric keypad taking a half second to open it, she said.

On the other hand, the incidence of home invasion is so minimal, as are the instances of a gunowner actually foiling an intruder.

“The FBI did a study of home invasions and found that 68% of home invasions happen between parties that knew each other.”

What is more likely is that believing you are defending yourself against an armed intruder, results in accidentally killing your 19 year old who comes home unexpectedly from college at 3 am.

See also:

Congressman Israel Presses Boehner to Bring Universal Background Checks Bill to Vote

© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com,  

Congressman Israel Presses Boehner to Bring Universal Background Checks Bill to Vote

Congressman Steve Israel came to Great Neck South Middle School to urge the House to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun, joined by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Prendergast, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Singas Janina Bandi, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Assemblywoman Schimel (not shown) © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Congressman Steve Israel came to Great Neck South Middle School to urge the House to vote on a bill mandating universal background checks to obtain a gun, joined by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Prendergast, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Singas Janina Bandi, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Assemblywoman Schimel (not shown) © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Could it be that Pope Francis’ visit which brought Jon Boehner to tears, will inspire the House Speaker to show some courage and allow a vote on a bipartisan bill requiring universal background checks and closing the gun show loophole before he exits? The man who tears up at the drop of a hat, can show himself to be a man of fortitude, a real hero.

Boehner has it within his power to bring a bipartisan bill calling for commonsense gun regulations – supported by the vast majority of Americans – that would call for universal background checks and keep guns out of the hands of felons, terrorists, domestic abusers and the mentally ill.

Congressman Steve Israel did not exactly pose the question that way but, appearing on the steps of Great Neck South Middle School last Friday, flanked by the schools superintendent, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Nassau County Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas and Janina Bandi, chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, he noted that it was within Boehner’s power to allow a vote on the bipartisan bill, HR 1217, introduced by none other than  Republican Peter King of Long Island and Democrat Mike Thompson (CA) (who proudly wears his NRA button in his lapel). The bill already has 182 cosponsors (it would need 218 votes to pass).

Congressman Israel chided his colleagues in Congress for their moments of silence over what has become twice-monthly mass shootings, but stalwart inaction.

“Exactly one year ago, the entire country was swept up about fear of Ebola – 2 people died. Yet, the entire US Congress demanded immediate action – hospitals reconfigured, the White House engaged and there was action – as there should have been – to save lives against the threat,” Congressman Israel said.

“In one year, 30,000 have lost their lives to guns. Two to Ebola. 30,000 to guns. But in the year since, there has not been one hearing, not one committee meeting, not one bill, not one finger lifted in Congress to deal with gun violence.

“About every week, we’ve had a moment of silence, memorializing Americans killed in mass shooting. Enough silence. It’s time for action. American people have had it with inaction.

“Two people from Ebola. 88 Americans will die today as a result of gun violence. 30,000 in a year. There are been 300 mass shootings this year alone and it isn’t yet finished.

“Why I’m so frustrated? We know what we have is not working. We know what will work: commonsense reforms like universal background checks, which 90% of Americans support. It’s not hard. Even in this polarized environment, 90% supporting something is rare. Yet the NRA lobby is stopping action on what 90% – and the vast majority of NRA members- support.

“Too many of my colleagues are silent. We should make it harder, not easier for the mentally ill, terrorists, people on the do-not-fly list, to obtain guns. But for every day there is a moment of silence and not action, we are making it easier.  That is an abysmal failure of responsibility…

“If only Congress responded with as forceful power as it did on Ebola, this school would be safer.”

That point was driven home by Great Neck Schools Superintendent Dr. Teresa Prendergast, who described the lock down and table top exercises, an entire security apparatus including single point of entry to buildings, cameras, assembly programs for the youngest grades. “It’s reflective of the times,” she said.

How much does securing our schools against a madman who can so easily acquire a military-grade weapon cost? Dr. Prendergast said that the school district spends $1.8 million on security (not counting the expanded bus transportation program that was put into effect to increase security for children who would otherwise walk to school).  In an era of budget caps, she remarked, “Every dollar that is taken for security comes out of the classroom. We would we love to have that money for academic programs.”

New York has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation – thanks particularly to the SAFE Act which was passed shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct. – and while New York State is one of 21 states with tighter background check laws, without a comprehensive federal law many guns used illegally in New York are trafficked from states with less prohibitive gun laws. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives nearly 70 percent of firearms recovered and traced in New York State came from out of state.

“In Nassau County, one out of five crimes involve firearms. Nassau County is one of the safest counties, but is not immune, said Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, a member of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. A national tragedy can be avoided with a little commonsense courage to take action. We are doing everything we can but legislative leaders in Washington need to have courage to stand up, support commonsense measures like background checks, adjudicated mental illness, straw purchases.”

Background checks are effective: The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 1993, created the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and required federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States. Since its inception in November 1994, roughly 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers have been prevented because of background checks. But presently, there are huge loopholes in the system , for firearm sales made at gun shows, over the internet, or through private sellers, which fails to prevent the mentally ill, domestic abusers, or criminals from purchasing firearms.

But criminals know they can go to another state and buy with no questions asked.”

As Janina Bandi, the volunteer Chapter Leader for the New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, noted, 32 states don’t require any background checks (only 18 do). But when there is sensible regulation, 46% fewer women are shot and killed by intimate partner; 48% fewer people are killed when guns not easily accessible.

“Requiring background checks on all gun sales is the single most important thing we can do to reduce the gun violence in our country that kills 88 Americans every day and injures hundreds more. We don’t have to choose between protecting the Second Amendment and saving lives — we can do both.”

There is absolutely no reason at all while the Aurora shooter, who murdered so many innocents in a movie theater in Colorado was able to buy 4,000 rounds of ammo – no questions asked – over the internet. The dealer did not even know (or care) if he was a minor.

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, who has battled for sensible gun measures for more than 20 years in and out of government, evoked John Lennon and Carolyn Maloney’s husband, who was murdered by the LIRR shooter. “Enough. Churches, schools, movie theaters, restaurants. Am I next? We need universal background checks. New York passed SAFE Act and has the fourth lowest gun death rate in the nation.

Former Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, sent a statement saying,  “I know all too well the heartbreak and loss families of gun violence go through. words no longer enough. Sending our thoughts and prayers to the families affected by gun violence is no longer enough. We need substantial change in the way we approach this epidemic because saving lives should never be a partisan issue. Until we pass commonsense gun legislation in this country, I will continue my mission to fight for the families like mine that were forever changed by gun violence.”

And the Republican shell-game of placing the blame for the violence caused by easy access to highly lethal weapons and high-capacity magazines on mental illness, is contradicted by New Jersey Governor and Republican Presidential hopeful Chris Christie  recent veto of a bill that would have included local law enforcement officers in the process of deciding whether a person with a documented mental illness could apply for a gun permit.

Rep. Israel is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1217 the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, also known as the bipartisan King-Thompson legislation, which expands background checks by closing gun sale loopholes and requiring comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales. Additionally, Rep. Israel is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3411, the Fix Gun Checks Act, which was originally introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy before she retired. This legislation would expand background checks, close gun sale loopholes including person-to-person sales, and makes it harder for the mentally ill to acquire guns.

Introduced in March by (amazingly) Peter King, R-LI, the preamble to HR 1217 says, “To protect Second Amendment rights, ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.”

In fact, it is an incredibly modest, stripped down proposal which only addresses background checks and closing the gun show loophole (www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1217/text). You would think that the most ardent gun rights advocate would be happy to pass it, just to shut down any further, meaningful gun regulation by tossing these few crumbs which are wildly popular.

“Nobody really believes by passing legislation to close gun show loophole we would be repealing 2nd Amendment,” Congressman Israel said at the press conference on Friday. “That is an absurd argument. I will not support taking guns from law-abiding gun owners. This is about criminals, terrorist, mental illness. (Donald Trump opened a South Carolina rally by saying that President Obama is planning to sign an executive order taking everyone’s guns away.)

“Remember air raid drills? We don’t worry about that but have mass shooting drills. We are in a climate where we have to keep us safe not from nuclear weapons but a deranged person with a gun.”

I note that this proposal to make background checks universal is a great first step, but what about restoring the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2004 (count up how many mass shootings in the blink of an eye have taken place since then and how many lives lost), and large capacity ammo?

“No where,” he said with resignation that is why so many people are fed up with government dysfunction. “They not only have refused the assault weapons ban and ban on large capacity magazines, but put a rider on a bill that prevents the CDC [Center for disease Control] from even studying the relationship and statistics showing gun deaths, gun violence and public health.”

“I am hopeful that before Boehner leaves, he will allow bringing it to the floor for a vote. Then members can vote yes or no. We are asking for Boehner, as one of his last acts before leaves, to give us a vote.

“I guarantee that if it gets to the floor, it will pass House. What happens in Senate is another issue – I would guess would be filibustered. But we should do our job.”

In other words nothing would be done – the action would simply be a sop.

What about smart guns? You would think that gun manufacturers would jump at the chance to replace 300 million obsolete guns, much as Apple gets their I-phone users to replace their I-phones. They could do imaginative trade-in deals.

“We actually thought about that,” Congressman Israel told me. “The biggest purchaser of guns from manufacturers is the federal government. We can set standards by requiring it in the specs.

Congressman Israel seems to be settling for very modest goals, leaving out a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips, or making the gun manufacturers and gun dealers liable when their weapons. As Secretary Hillary Clinton noted during the Democratic Presidential Debate, why should the gun industry singularly be exempt from any accountability among all industries?

Why can’t the gun-sense lobby take up some of the tactics of the anti-woman’s rights lobby and make it more cumbersome, more expensive to obtain such lethal weapons?

When I raised the issue of why gun manufacturers can’t see their own self-interest in producing smart guns – that can only be used by their registered owner – Congressman Israel noted “We actually thought about that,” Congressman Israel told me. “The biggest purchaser of guns from manufacturers is the federal government. We can set standards by requiring it in the specs.”

But in the likelihood that this Congress would never impose anything on private companies, why can’t the President, by executive order, require guns purchased for the federal government be smart guns, just as the president has mandated a minimum wage and paid family leave for government contractors? Such standards from a big customer have the ability to transform industries – just as California’s Clean Air standards of automobiles transformed the auto industry.

Similarly, every police department in the country could set a standard requiring smart gun technology.

Maybe that toddler would have been alive if his 6 year old brother hadn’t been able to fire his father’s gun while playing cops and robbers. Indeed, hardly a week goes by where a toddler isn’t the shooter or the victim.

The Chicago shooting is the latest in a seemingly incessant string of American kids being killed by guns, often shot by other kids. This summer, another toddler was fatally shot by her 7-year-old brother in Washington. Earlier this month, an 11-year-old boy in Tennessee was charged with first-degree murder after shooting his 8-year-old neighbor with a shotgun after an argument over puppies.”

Parents should be prosecuted when their guns are used by their children. (Instead, Florida has a law that prevents pediatricians from discussing safe storage of guns in a home.)

Also, President Obama could sign an executive order closing a loophole that allows many gun sellers to avoid licensing (and therefore the obligation to perform background checks) by requiring any dealers who exceed a certain number of firearms sales a year to obtain a federal license and perform background checks.

What is more, the progressive organization Credo says that there is a way around the National Rifle Association’s grip on Congress that so far has blocked any gun control bill from getting a vote. “Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi can use a parliamentary tactic called a ‘discharge petition’ to force a vote on a gun control package, even if pro-NRA politicians in the House refuse to act,” writes Monique Teal of Daily Kos. That means that Jon Boehner wouldn’t even have to lose face and still do the right thing.

“Even if we don’t win an up-or-down vote, we can use a discharge petition to force a vote in the House and force members of Congress to pick a side. They can either stand with the American people who are ready to take action to reduce gun violence in America or they can stand with the NRA.” (You can sign a petition at www.dailykos.com/campaigns/1474?detail=action)

If this tool is available and Democrats don’t use it, it shows that they, for all this new-found bluster, are not really serious about the most significant public health policy this nation faces, either, and that it is only for the cameras in a district so solidly in favor of sensible gun regulation.

There are signs that people are actually rising up: in California, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome is pushing for a “direct democracy” referendum that would require background checks in order to purchase ammunition.

And parents can let college campuses (and states) know they are opposed to allowing guns on campuses by demanding to know the college’s (and the state’s) policy, and refusing to allow their child to apply to those campuses.

Meanwhile, just this week, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld NY SAFE Act.

“Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld what we have long known to be true – that the core provisions of the NY SAFE Act do not violate the Second Amendment. Today, common sense prevailed.

“When we passed the SAFE Act, just days after the tragedies in Newtown and Webster, New York proved to the nation that it is possible to enact sensible gun control that coexists with the Second Amendment. We showed that it can be done with bi-partisan support from both urban and rural communities. And we took a fundamental step forward to help end the stream of senseless killings by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

“This case validates a simple, fundamental truth about gun control: that it is possible to have strong laws that keep our communities safe, while at the same time respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. New York has set the example – and it’s far past time for Washington to follow suit and pass a sensible national gun control policy.”

© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin