Mark Kelly: After Navy Yard shooting, gun laws will protect people and gun rights
In the wake of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, Gabby and I ask lawmakers to back broadly accepted ideas – such as expanding background checks – that address gun violence and still protect gun owners. The two aims are not mutually exclusive.
In Congress, my wife, Gabby Giffords, represented Tombstone, Arizona. It’s the town that’s too tough to die, a symbol of American grit and the Western ethos of gun ownership. In popular folklore, the OK Corral evokes images of armed cowboys and dead villains. Justice, some of our favorite tales suggest, was sought from the barrel of a gun.Skip to next paragraph
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But if current American attitudes about guns derive from our origins as a frontier nation, then we must look at how places like Tombstone policed firearms and prevented gun violence. This is especially true in the wake of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC.
You might be surprised by what you find about the history of US gun laws. Far from the “live-by-the-gun, die-by-the-gun” way of life portrayed in movies, the Western tradition of gun ownership was tightly braided with similarly Western policies to prevent gun violence.
Take a look at the history books, and you’ll learn that Tombstone legislators of the late nineteenth century worked to improve public safety by enacting comparatively strict gun safety laws. In 1881, Tombstone made it illegal to carry weapons in public. Residents could keep arms at home; travelers passing through had to check their guns with the marshal.
Like the early citizens of Tombstone, Gabby and I are gun owners and believers in the Second Amendment. While we would never re-legislate the approach that Tombstone took, we know we can keep our families safe from gun violence while allowing us to exercise our constitutional rights. We appreciate guns for the protection they provide – and we know the dangers presented by letting guns get into the hands of dangerous people.
For years, Gabby and I watched the gun-violence prevention debate play out in acrid newspaper op-eds and outlandish TV campaign ads. We didn’t feel that our views as moderates and gun owners were represented.
After mass shootings in Tucson; in Aurora, Colo.; in Oak Creek, Wis.; in Newtown, Conn. – and now we sadly add the Navy Yard to that list – we knew it was time to bring a new voice to the gun safety debate. In January, we founded Americans for Responsible Solutions to prevent gun violence. We encourage politicians to back broadly accepted ideas – such as expanding background checks – that address gun violence and still protect gun owners. The two aims are not mutually exclusive.
We also ask every American to take another look at the issue, one that’s inclusive of the nation’s diverse experiences with firearms. We ask that you walk in Gabby’s shoes and help forge a new middle ground where gun owners and non-gun owners can walk – and calmly talk – together.
When it comes to guns, this country sometimes looks like two Americas: one where owning guns is as common and unremarkable as using cell phones for texting; and the other, where guns are identified with crime and tragedy. But neither of these portraits depicts how Gabby and I have experienced gun ownership and gun violence.
That’s why we are working with hundreds of thousands of Americans to forge a new middle ground in the gun debate – asking them to contact elected officials and sign a petition to pass expanded background checks in Congress. We know that as Americans we can put ourselves in each other’s shoes and seek common solutions that take into account diverse experiences.