Op-Ed

Help us be the beginning of the end of America’s crisis of gun violence

This week Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, left, and Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly visited a memorial site at Pulse, the gay club in Orlando where 49 people were killed in a mass shooting in June.
This week Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, left, and Gabby Giffords and husband Mark Kelly visited a memorial site at Pulse, the gay club in Orlando where 49 people were killed in a mass shooting in June. AP

This week in Orlando we launched the 2016 Vocal Majority Tour, a 14-state, 40-day national bus tour. Its goal is ambitious but critical: to ignite the vocal majority of Americans who support responsible change to step out, speak up and vote to reduce gun violence on Nov. 8.

We came to Orlando to help ignite the responsible change our country needs. We wish this effort were unnecessary. But the stark reality is that our country is in the grips of a gun-violence crisis — one that touches every community in our country.

It is a crisis that claimed 49 lives on June 12 at Pulse. It has claimed thousands of lives around our country since that dark day. It will claim 33,000 lives this year.

And as this American gun-violence crisis rages on, Congress and many of our state legislatures have done something remarkable:

Not much at all.

For too long, a small but vocal minority — driven and controlled by the Washington gun lobby — has had an outsized influence over our nation’s gun laws and has protected a dangerous status quo. The gun lobby and its allies have fought to keep the dangerous loopholes in our laws that let domestic abusers, stalkers, felons and even terror suspects have easy access to guns.

So, we will stand with local and national leaders to tell the gun lobby and the lawmakers and the candidates they control that we — the Vocal Majority — will not be silent.

Beginning this week and ending as the final ballots are counted on Nov. 8, the Vocal Majority Tour will travel across our country, bringing together uncommon allies in this badly needed fight for common sense.

From Orlando, the Vocal Majority Tour will travel throughout Florida. Then to Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, New Hampshire — and to many states beyond.

In dozens of communities along the way, we’ll stand with Republicans, Democrats, independents, our fellow gun owners, veterans, law enforcement and the 90 percent of Americans who agree that our lawmakers must do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives.

Together, we’ll talk to voters about the need to close the gaps in our nation’s gun background-check system, to make it harder for known and suspected terrorists to arm themselves, and to address the deadly mix of domestic violence and guns.

Together, we’ll work with Americans all around our country to elect candidates up and down the ballot who are committed to protecting the rights of law-abiding people while taking responsible steps that prevent gun tragedies.

We will keep working hard to elect Hillary Clinton as our next president. Clinton is the only candidate in this race with a record of taking on the gun lobby and a serious plan to make our families safer from gun violence. She is the gun-safety candidate our country needs.

So we ask you simply to join us. Be part of the Vocal Majority. Speak out. Talk to your loved ones and friends and neighbors about our country’s gun-violence problem and the steps we can take to save lives. Commit to voting only for the candidates who promise to take on the gun lobby and enact responsible change once elected.

Better yet: Make phone calls and knock on doors for them.

All of us, together — buoyed by our determination and optimism and our shared goals — can make sure that 2016 is remembered as the year that Americans found their voice on reducing gun violence.

It is in our power. Responsible change and safer communities are within our reach.

Because our voices matter.

And our votes matter.

Gabrielle Giffords represented southern Arizona in Congress from 2007 to 2012. Capt. Mark Kelly (U.S. Navy, retired) is a former naval aviator, combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut. They are the co-founders of the gun-violence-prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions.

©2016 Orlando

Sentinel

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