Veterans: We Call on Gun Dealers and Responsible Owners to Prevent the Next Shooting | Opinion

As veterans who have served in uniform in defense of this country, we are deeply troubled by the latest attacks against innocent people here at home. We cannot continue this cycle of national grief followed by collective amnesia. Enough is enough. The three latest terrorists were gun owners and as such, whether the other gun owners wish to admit it or not, they were members of the gun owners community. For this reason, we believe it is time for responsible gun owners and dealers to speak out proactively, and to immediately begin to work to stop further instances of gun violence. Gun owners and dealers can be part of the solution instead of the source of the problem, while still protecting the Second Amendment rights of all Americans.

We must acknowledge that a culture of silence exists within the gun community. It is a culture that instead of addressing racist and violent ideologies seeks to side-step the issue by blaming video games, social media, the media, political parties and mental illness. It has resulted in absolutely stifling any discussion how those who aspire to violent acts of terror are aided through an almost unrestricted access to firearms and ammunition. This is not political pandering or an election talking point. It is a sad, obvious, indisputable fact.

We want to break down that code of silence amongst gun owners. We must remind them that if they see something that doesn't seem right, they have a duty to say something. Doing so is their duty as responsible citizens. Raising the alarm is by no means a violation or diminishment of the Second Amendment. Responsible gun owners have an obligation to speak out against dangerous, or even simply irresponsible, fellow gun owners.

Nowhere is the duty of self-reporting more critical than amongst gun dealers. Even without legislation and regulations, there is nothing stopping gun dealers from proactively raising concerns about potential customers and even, in some cases, denying a sale. Gun dealers are uniquely placed to act as the first line of defense in keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Far too often after mass shootings, gun dealers like the one who sold to the Gilroy shooter, feel remorse and genuinely believe they have always tried to sell to good people and have done everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen.

But even when they obey the laws, gun dealers simply may not have enough information to assess who is "good" and who isn't. It is why we need to make sure that gun dealers can see data on potential customers, including whether or not a person is on a terrorist watch list. Dealers should have all the data relevant to deciding whether or not to conduct a sale. Moreover: dealers should be incentivized and encouraged to self-report, data on transactions must be available, and above all, we cannot allow unrecorded sales of firearms to continue. This why we must demand Congress pass the Background Check Expansion Act to close the loophole and help keep weapons from those who wish to do us harm.

We wholeheartedly reject the notion that gun ownership cannot be done in a responsible manner that neither infringes on the rights of others, nor threatens the safety of our fellow citizens. But we also recognize the status quo is no longer tenable and we must make our voices heard, not as obstructionists, but as those eager to help save lives and willing offer real solutions. We must look towards issues where there is consensus, such as the Brady Campaign's "End Family Fire," which seeks to reduce gun death or injury as a result of improperly stored firearms.

Too often the idea of change is cast as either being too hard or the beginning stages of the wholesale repeal of the Second Amendment. This is absolutely false. Many of us are gun owners and we do not wish to alter or remove the Second Amendment. In fact, we wish to abide more closely by it, by giving the "well regulated" part its rightful due—just like we did when we were in the military. We are frustrated and disturbed as we watch shooting after shooting, where terrorists have access to semiautomatic weapons with detachable high capacity magazines.

We understand that having a sober and objective conversations on these topics may be uncomfortable for many, but that cannot be a reason to avoid the discussion. We believe that, in the end, we will all be better and safer for having these tough conversations. Whether we are gun owners or not, we believe that we must work together to end rampant gun violence and keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

Travis Akers is a veteran Naval Intelligence Officer and serves on the Board of Directors for DemCast USA. Kristin Beck is a retired Navy SEAL with 20 years of service. She was a key voice to end the military ban on transgender service members with the documentary film, Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story. She is the President and a board member of the Mindful Valor Foundation. Naveed Jamali is a former intelligence officer and intelligence operative. He is the author of "How to Catch a Russian Spy." Fred Wellman is a retired Army Aeroscout Pilot and Public Affairs Officer and CEO of ScoutComms. Naveed Shah is a U.S. Army veteran and the Political Director for Mission First. Together they form Left of Bang: The Gun Violence Prevention Working Group.

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