As a congresswoman and a student activist with a generation between us, we may have different perspectives, but we both agree wholeheartedly that we cannot accept gun violence as normal. Every day, 100 people lose their lives to gun violence. That is tragic and unacceptable. We must take action.
In the wake of so many tragic shootings in our schools, a new generation of student leaders from Oregon to Florida are bravely speaking up and making their voices heard about the policies we need to protect our communities from senseless gun violence. Students today don't know a time before Columbine (the 1999 mass shooting at a high school in Colorado). For them, mass shooting exercises are just as routine as fire drills. They enter classrooms and, as one Beaverton student told the audience at a town hall meeting, look for "where to hide and how to escape."
It doesn't have to be that way. Congress needs to give these students much more than thoughts and prayers and moments of silence. Too many innocent lives have been lost, too many families have been forever altered, and too many people have been forever changed. Congress must take action to prevent gun violence.
When we marched together last year in the March for Our Lives in Portland, there were thousands of Oregonians marching with us to demand that Congress act quickly to prevent further loss of life. The people calling for change include responsible gun owners who are sick of seeing dangerous people use guns to inflict harm. What made the March feel new and different was the leadership of so many young people who bring passion beyond measure. Young people are the future of this country and, with their full engagement on this issue, our future looks brighter each and every day.
We are both inspired by the civic engagement of students. It is humbling to have survivors of Parkland in the halls of Congress demanding change, and student activists and survivors as guests at the State of the Union. Unfortunately, the president did not present any new or meaningful ideas about how to end gun violence. In fact, the one idea he has proposed — arming teachers in schools — would make our schools much less safe and would waste valuable public funds that should be used to improve public education.
Congress must come together to answer the call for universal background checks and other commonsense measures to keep our schools, houses of worship and public places safe from gun violence. Now that there is a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, there is finally an opportunity to bring the gun violence prevention conversation to the forefront and take action.
Congress must immediately pass H.R. 8, bipartisan legislation requiring background checks on all firearms sales and transfers. In fact, the House just held the first hearing on gun violence prevention in eight years.
After marching together in the streets in Oregon, we will now walk together in the halls of Congress to see the issue of gun violence prevention finally get the attention it deserves from elected leaders.
Most importantly, we will always remember why we're working to end gun violence: for the victims and survivors of Parkland; for the victims and survivors of Sandy Hook; for the victims and survivors of Columbine; for the victims and survivors of Umpqua Community College; for our futures and for our kids. Enough is enough.
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici represents Northwest Oregon in Congress and invited Alexandria Goddard, a Sunset High School alumna, to be her guest for the State of the Union address. Goddard was an organizer for the Portland March for Our Lives and is currently a student at Portland State University. Taking action on gun violence prevention is a top priority for Bonamici and the House Democratic Caucus.
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