How Much More Gun Violence Can This Senate Tolerate? We Need Background Checks and a Strong Red Flag Law | Opinion

Across the world, every country struggles with mental illness. Their citizens play the same violent video games and watch the same shoot-'em-up movies and TV that we do. Here's the difference: In the United States, access to guns is far too easy. And, every day, we live (and die) with levels of gun violence that are both intolerable and preventable.

So we mourn with the families of everyone affected by the horrific shooting in El Paso. And in Dayton. And in Gilroy. And in the big cities and small towns where the victims' names never make the headlines.

The American people have mourned enough.

Statehouses have heard us—over the past year and a half, more than 20 states have strengthened their gun laws. The U.S. House has heard us—earlier this year, it bucked the gun lobby and passed strong gun safety legislation. Now it's the U.S. Senate's turn. With people crying out for action to help end America's gun violence crisis, here are two steps our senators can take right away.

The first step is closing a giant and deadly loophole in our current gun laws. Right now felons and domestic abusers can bypass the gun-sale background check system and buy a gun without a check, no questions asked. The House took bipartisan action to close that loophole back in February, passing the Bipartisan Background Checks Act by a 50-vote margin.

Here we are months later, and the background check bill (H.R. 8) still awaits action in the Senate. It's time for Senate leadership to defy the NRA's extreme leadership who have fought the background checks fix tooth and nail, and finally bring background checks up for a vote.

While the NRA struggles to defend itself from recent revelations of internal corruption and shady transactions that have made any affiliation with them a liability in the eyes of voters, the Senate's next move should be another that makes all the sense in the world.

How many times have you heard someone say, after a deadly shooting, that the warning signs were there? That the shooter had shown "red flags?" So many shootings are tragedies that unfold in slow motion. What if there were a proven, lawful way to intervene and stop someone in crisis from harming themselves and/or others? What if the people who saw something could do something, before it was too late?

Red Flag laws—which President Trump just called for this week—empower family members and law enforcement to do exactly that. Also known as Extreme Risk laws, they allow family members and law enforcement to provide evidence of red flags to a judge, who can then order that someone's guns be removed for a brief, temporary period. It's a common-sense way to prevent both gun homicides, mass shootings and suicides, while at the same time having rules and procedures that respect people's due-process rights. And it's a policy that blue and red states alike are increasingly adopting. During the past year and a half, the number of states with "Red Flag" laws has more than tripled (from five to 17, plus the District of Columbia). In the last year alone, these laws were used no less than 1,700 times to help law enforcement temporarily remove guns from people who posed a serious threat to themselves or others.

Right now there is bipartisan appetite in the Senate for a strong federal Red Flag law. The Senate should waste no time in getting it done.

This weekend, I was just a few miles from the Capitol when I heard the shocking reports out of El Paso. I was attending "Gun Sense University," where more than 2,000 leaders with the Everytown Survivor Network, Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action had traveled from all 50 states for a few days of leadership trainings and motivation for the fight ahead of us. The El Paso attack left us all shaken, but this was no time to sit around. You might have seen the videos on social media – volunteer leaders organized an impromptu march to the White House, and started leaving voicemails for their senators urging them to act on background checks and a strong "Red Flag" law.

We've mourned enough. Now we're demanding action. Rather than go down with the NRA's sinking ship, it's time for the Senate to do its job—and act to protect the American people.

John Feinblatt is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​