Quora: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on Gun Violence

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigns with vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine at East High School in Youngstown, Ohio, July 30. Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

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Answers from Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, Democratic nominees for president and vice president, respectively:

Hillary Clinton

It’s not that we can’t find common ground. It’s that our lawmakers need to find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, respect the will of the American people, and do what it takes to save lives.

The overwhelming majority of Americans support comprehensive background checks and other commonsense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. That includes Republicans and Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners alike. In reality, we’re not divided on this issue. Americans know that we can respect the rights of responsible gun owners and enact commonsense gun reforms to keep our communities safe.

And yet the politics of gun violence prevention have become poisonous. Congress is so intimidated by the gun lobby that they won’t even prevent suspected terrorists from buying assault weapons. It’s unfathomable—just as it’s unfathomable that legislation to require comprehensive background checks would fail, despite overwhelming public support. And it’s unfathomable that we can’t keep keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

We need to elect leaders with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. That is one of the reasons I admire Tim Kaine. As governor of Virginia, he took on the NRA in their own backyard—and he won. And now he’s fighting for gun reforms across the country as a senator, as we saw recently when he joined other Democrats in a 15-hour filibuster to demand a vote on the issue.

That’s the kind of resolve we need if we’re going to work together to keep our communities safe from gun violence. The fight is too important to concede.

Tim Kaine

The day of the Virginia Tech shooting was the worst day of my life. As governor of Virginia, I found myself trying to comfort a traumatized community and families of victims who were suffering the worst imaginable tragedy—and I knew I had to do something to make sure a tragedy like that never happened again.

That’s why I worked so hard to close the loophole that let the Virginia Tech shooter purchase his guns, strengthening the background check system to keep guns from dangerously mentally ill individuals.

Guns have a long tradition in American life. I know that from my home state—and also as a gun owner. But the truth is, the vast majority of gun owners support positive reforms to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them—people who put our kids, our loved ones, and themselves at risk. We’re simply not as divided on the issue as our representatives in Congress make the country out to be. Take the recent filibuster in the Senate, for example. 90 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats in America are in favor of preventing suspected terrorists from buying a gun. But was that reflected in the vote on the Senate floor? No.

So why is it such a divisive issue? I agree with Hillary—the real answer here is that it’s not. It’s just that the gun lobby, and in particular the NRA, has spent decades using money and influence to cause gridlock in Washington. Too many elected officials are scared to prioritize the safety of our communities over the profits of the gun lobby for fear they’ll lose their jobs. Look, I know the NRA. They’re headquartered in my home state, and they’ve campaigned against me in every statewide race I’ve ever run. I promise I’ll continue to stand up to their bullying. It’s time for elected officials to stand up to the gun lobby, and pass the commonsense laws that Americans are asking for and that our communities need.

Why is gun control such a divisive issue in American politics? originally appeared on Quora—the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.