By Rick Larsen
One day after the March for Our Lives, I held a Community Coffee at the YMCA in Marysville. Community Coffees are a forum where I can hear directly from constituents in Washington’s 2nd Congressional District about issues important to them. Out of the 22 questions that were asked, more than half covered gun violence.
Gun violence forever altered the Marysville community 3 1/2 years ago when a student opened fire in the cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. My heart still hurts when I think about the students whose lives were taken that day and their families.
The intensity of this community meeting showed just how important it is for people to have these discussions regardless of party or ideology. Faced with their own fears and experiences with gun violence, high school students have been forced to become the face of a national movement. Across the country, and in Marysville, students are leading the dialogue on school safety and gun violence. High school seniors should be worried about post-graduation plans, not whether someone will bring a gun to school and threaten their life. With that said, I am proud of how students from across Washington state have stepped up to have their voices heard. Their bravery, leadership and hard work will make our schools and communities safer.
For elected officials, listening is important. But listening without acting is an empty gesture. That is why I am calling on members on both sides of the aisle to take responsibility for what is within our control – the law.
Congress must take several actions to prevent gun violence:
1. Ban bump-stock devices, which the Las Vegas shooter used to make semi-automatic rifles function essentially as fully automatic rifles;
2. Reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines above 10 rounds and;
3. Strengthen background checks, including by closing the Charleston loophole that allowed the gunman to purchase a firearm without a completed background check.
These tragedies cannot continue to be the norm. The main question I heard this weekend was, “What do we do now?” My answer is simple: persist until the fight is over. Inaction is not an option. Members of Congress do not see the light until they feel the heat, so students and communities must continue to keep the pressure on elected officials.
Protesting is not the only means of action. Write a letter to my office. Share your story. Write a letter to the editor in the local newspaper. Share your thoughts on social media and join the national conversation.
Every day Congress fails to take action is another day that students, parents and communities like Marysville feel unease and dread. The 2nd Congressional District is done waiting for the right time to talk about gun safety. The time is now.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen represents the 2nd District, which includes Marysville and Arlington.