In the days and weeks following the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we heard an outcry from students in Parkland and across the country. Their message to all of us – enough. Too many communities have lost friends and loved ones to the epidemic of gun violence. And too often, these shooting take place in a classroom, movie theater, shopping mall, or on the walk home from school – all places we expect our children to be safe from gun violence.
Just a few weeks after the Parkland shooting, our students and young people organized some 250 marches around the country to protest gun violence, and to call on their elected leaders to take action to protect them. The entirely student-led March for Our Lives was a sight to behold. I was proud to join the students marching in Wilmington, with my homemade sign that quoted the Book of Isaiah: “And a little child shall lead them.”
Avery Jones, a senior at William Penn High School, is one of those young people leading the way. She wrote my Senate office asking for a conversation on gun reform and school safety. In response, I joined Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester in hosting a town hall last Saturday on gun violence in New Castle County. After marching together, this was another great opportunity to hear from our students and Delawareans of all ages on how gun violence has touched their lives and ways we can work together to stop that violence from continuing to plague our communities.
In my discussions with constituents at the town hall and across Delaware, a number of common sense reforms always come up as measures that could start saving lives today. For example, almost everyone I’ve heard from, including the overwhelming majority of gun owners, believes that we should close loopholes in the criminal background check system at gun shows and online to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals and the mentally ill. Many folks have also told me that bump stocks, large-capacity ammunition magazines, and assault weapons—those designed, built, and meant for battlefields, not suburban streets—should be banned. These are all common sense ideas that I’ve supported for years in Congress.
I think it’s important to note that we can use common sense to make our communities safer without infringing on the Second Amendments rights of law-abiding Americans. I’ve been around guns all my life. My grandfather was a hunter and my father was an avid gun collector, and both of them were strong supporters of the Second Amendment. From an early age, my father taught me how to safely use firearms. He also taught me the value of using common sense when buying and owning firearms.
At Saturday’s town hall, it was apparent to me that, while not everyone saw eye-to-eye on every issue, we all agreed on the need to use common sense to reduce gun violence. I also asked everyone who joined two questions. What kind of country do we want to live in? And, what kind of country do we want our children and our grandchildren to grow up in? After marching and listening to our young people, my belief is stronger than ever that we have more work to do in Congress and in states and cities to make our schools and communities safer. Thankfully, our children are leading us.