I wear my son’s jacket as I travel down to the Colorado State Capitol building. His jacket is a reminder of what I’ve lost and how much work we have to do to end gun violence in our country. On July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, an assailant with a gun walked into a neighborhood movie theater to kill 12 people, including my son Alex Sullivan, and injured 70 others.
On March 16 in Atlanta, Georgia, where eight people were killed, and then again on March 22 we saw similar events play out as a gunman walked into a neighborhood grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, and killed ten people.
These events are all too familiar. From movie theaters, schools, grocery stores, to everywhere in between, our communities are being ravaged by gun violence. Gun violence affects all of us, directly or indirectly. You may not know it, but you are affected by gun violence—you are a victim and survivor of this crisis that is happening all across our country.
Some may say we’ve become numb to mass shootings. But we’ve just grown accustomed to them. We say, “Oh, that will never happen to me,” we hear thoughts and prayers from our elected officials, we hold moments of silence, we post on social media, and then we move on until the next mass shooting comes our way. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I believe we can do something, and I know that we must do something—because every day, more than 100 people in the United States are killed with guns, and 200 more are shot and wounded. Data, research, and common sense show that public safety laws can reduce gun violence and save lives. There are actions that we, as a country, can take to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.
In Colorado, we’ve already passed common-sense gun legislation like background checks, limiting high-capacity magazines, extreme risk protection orders, and more. This year, I am working to pass legislation on Lost and Stolen firearms. Every year 380,000 firearms are lost or stolen in America. However, less than 240,000 gun thefts are reported to police each year—suggesting that nearly 40 percent of the guns lost or stolen in the United States are never reported to law enforcement.
Legislation on this issue can help reduce gun trafficking by requiring individuals to report loss or theft to law enforcement shortly after discovering it. Because those unreported stolen guns mean there is a 40 percent greater chance of those firearms being used in crimes.
State policies like this one are important but we can’t end our country’s gun violence epidemic alone. We need action at a federal level so that protections are uniform across states. The American people need Congress to pass expanding background checks, require mandatory waiting periods to close the Charleston loophole, reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, and make substantial efforts to improve our mental health systems.
To move forward to reducing gun violence, we need people from all backgrounds and political parties to come together and engage with one another. Talk to your friends and family about safe gun ownership. Donate to organizations that support victims of gun violence. Call your elected officials to demand action. We can do better; we must do better.
Until then, I will continue to wear my son’s jacket as I advocate to end gun violence. From the day of my son’s murder to my last day on earth, I’ll be in the business of saving lives. I hope you’ll join me.