When it comes to reducing gun violence in America, our leaders are playing a deadly game of small ball. And everyday Americans are losing badly.
This year alone, including Orlando, more than 6,200 Americans have lost their lives due to gun violence. It is a staggering toll as we near the half way mark for 2016. An incalculable loss for every family and community struck.
And yet, the United States Congress is fighting to debate and vote on only the most incremental reforms to reduce gun violence.
While enhanced background checks, closing gun show loopholes, and imposing “no fly - no buy” provisions are important, these steps represent a fraction of what we must do as a society to curb gun violence in our communities.
First and foremost, we must stop allowing ISIS-inspired “lone wolves” to buy combat assault weapons so easily here at home.
In 1994, Congress passed an assault weapons ban that limited high capacity magazines to 10 bullets or less. The ban on combat assault weapons also made it illegal to manufacture any semiautomatic rifle with a pistol grip and a bayonet mount, preventing certain models of new AR-15s and AK-47s from entering the marketplace.
Mass shootings decreased when the assault weapons ban became law, but Congress — under pressure from the NRA — allowed the ban to expire in 2004.
In 2013, following the horrific massacre of innocent school kids at Sandy Hook, we banned the sale of combat assault weapons in Maryland. It took principled and persistent leadership to assemble a coalition of the reasonable. But we did it as a State and that’s exactly what we must do as a nation today.
While reasonable Americans in both parties support “no-fly, no buy”, the NRA has once again used their influences over our Congress to block even this smallest of steps. The law of our land remains no law in our land when it comes to combat assault weapons sales. No enhanced background checks, no fingerprint licensing provision for handgun purchasers, no assault weapons ban, no limit on magazine capacity.
It is time for Congress to listen to the vast majority of Americans instead of taking its orders from gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.
Our own failure to enact reasonable gun violence prevention laws is now being used against Americans by ISIS-inspired lone wolves.
The U.S. Military Academy’s director of terrorism studies notes that U.S. terrorists have turned to guns, because explosives and explosive materials are monitored more attentively by the government than gun sales. American al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn emphasized this troubling reality in a video to American jihadists, telling them a fully automatic assault weapon could be purchased at a gun show without a background check or ID card.
His chilling question to them: “What are you waiting for?”
The same question might be asked of us — what are we waiting for? How long will we sit idly by and allow terrorists and psychopaths to use our inaction against us?
The evidence at this point is overwhelming. Whatever the various motives, the carnage in cities and neighborhoods across America cannot be denied. The fact that ISIS inspired lone wolves are now using our failure to act to kill American citizens on American soil can no longer be ignored.
We must reinstate the combat assault weapons ban and we must limit magazine capacities to 10 rounds or less. American lives are at stake.
Martin O’Malley is former Mayor of Baltimore and Governor of Maryland. He ran for president in 2016. He served as Co-chair, Homeland Security Task Force, National Governor’s Association 2007-2014 and Co-chair, Homeland Security Committee, U.S. Conference of Mayors 2001-2006.