Jan. 8 is a bittersweet day for me. It is the first day of the Legislative session, and I will be back at the Capitol as an elected state representative. It is also the seventh anniversary of the shooting at a Tucson Safeway where six people were murdered and 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, were injured.
I was there as a staff member for the Congresswoman, but I ended up using first-aid skills that I’d learned in high school to help her and others who were shot. It is something I think about often, and every time I walk the halls of the state legislature where Gabby served our community so well before her election to Congress. I often talk to people at the Capitol who were here with Gabby, and they remark that they can’t believe it’s been seven years.
During that time Arizona has seen many changes. But one area where the public has called for change and where we’ve seen no movement is the prevention of gun violence. By now, we know that more than 90 Americans are killed by guns every day. We also know that Arizona has some of the most lax gun laws in the country — from removing training requirements for concealed weapons permits to allowing sales of guns without background checks at gun shows.
The Tucson shooting was a shock to the nation, and should have served as a catalyst in our community to make sensible changes to make us safer. But so far it has not. That’s because far too often the gun lobby’s response after a shooting is “let’s not politicize this. Let families grieve.” Well, it has now been seven long years since this shooting. And I can assure you the grieving is never done. It’s long past time to focus on policy, not politics.
This is a time for courage. As a state representative, I serve on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Over the past year I’ve met with prosecutors, members of law enforcement and gun violence victims. They want action. They want courage. That’s why I’m committed to create laws to protect lives, while still respecting our Second Amendment.
In partnership with my friend and colleague Rep. Randy Friese, one of Gabby’s surgeons, we are introducing a package of common-sense bills that if enacted will move the dial in the right direction.
First, we need to ban bump stocks. Prior to the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas last year, few people we’re even aware of these devices. They serve a singular purpose: to modify semi-automatic weapons to nearly automatic speed to inflict as many casualties as possible. No real hunter or sportsman needs to shoot in a general direction indiscriminately as bump stocks allow people to do.
Second, for at least the seventh year in a row, we are introducing a comprehensive background check bill. This bill ensures that all Arizonans play by the same rules. The loopholes in our system allow for wide abuse by sellers and buyers. The bill would close the loophole allowing private sales to be done without subjecting the purchaser to a criminal background check.
While it has not been put through yet, we have introduced and will keep introducing this bill until we get it passed. Comprehensive background checks have been proven to stop bad actors from getting easy access to firearms. While neither bill, if signed into law, would solve every problem or stop every shooting, we know they are steps in the right direction.
I have friends and colleagues around the country that have seen Arizona as a lost cause, but to my friends in the Arizona House and Senate I say, let’s prove them wrong. Let Arizona be an example to reddest and bluest of states. Let us be worthy of the trust given to us by voters. Let Arizona put the safety of the people over profits of the Washington gun lobby.
Daniel Hernandez is a state representative for
Legislative District 2.