These policy prescriptions require a federal uniform set of standards which respect the right to bear arms as codified by the Second Amendment but also recognize, as the Supreme Court did recently in District of Columbia v. Heller, that this right is “not unlimited.” This means Republicans, Democrats and independents need to have a real national conversation towards a comprehensive solution. It isn’t the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. Difficult decisions about banning high-capacity magazine ammunition and military-style weapons such as assault rifles, made only for killing other humans in war, will have to be made.
As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, the former chair of the Committee on Public Safety in the California Assembly, and a former county supervisor in Santa Clara County, I’ve been on the front line of these issues for decades. There is broad national support for these measures: A CNN poll found that 62 percent of people favor “a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of semi-automatic assault guns, such as the AK-47.” A similar majority of Americans support tougher background checks and better enforcement of existing laws — through increased funding for entities like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — as part of the solution.
Finally, beyond just looking at weapons and mental health, we have to look at the societal causes of violence. We must answer the question as to why our country leads the Western World in violence and gun-related deaths. The 2012 Peace Index, a yearly study done by the Institute for Economics and Peace on the cost of violence across the world, found that the least violent states in our nation had some of the highest rates of health coverage, high school graduation, educational opportunity and perceived access to basic services, as well as among the lowest rates of teen pregnancy, income inequality, poverty and infant mortality. Herein lays the long-term answer.
Neither states nor incremental federal laws can provide solutions to these problems; they must be created comprehensively with a broad vision for the future, a vision that only our president can provide and lead on. The coming weeks will be instrumental in turning back the tide of violence in our country, and I look forward to the president’s leadership.
Rep. Michael M. Honda is a Democrat representing the 17th District of California, which includes Silicon Valley, and serves as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.