This op-ed was originally published in USA Today:
One year ago Thursday, the United States Senate failed us.
It was last April — mere months after the senseless slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — that a minority of senators blocked legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get their hands on deadly firearms.
Given the opportunity to stand up to the gun lobby by supporting legislation favored by two-thirds of Americans, these senators did what all politicians do when they fear upsetting powerful interests: They voted for the status quo.
These were some of the same senators who had sat across the table from the grieving parents of children massacred at Sandy Hook or who looked me in the eye as I told them what it is like to learn to walk and talk again after a bullet from a madman’s gun nearly took my life.
I say now what I said then: There is more work to do. So today, I am not wasting my time focusing on this single setback in what we have always known would be a long, hard haul.
I am looking to a safer future: on Wednesday I was in Mobile, Ala., for the keel-laying ceremony of the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a Navy vessel that, once completed, will help protect our country. It will be tough, steely and ready to do the hard things, the same qualities that we should expect from our leaders in Washington.
Today, I am also alarmed by the lack of focus on the recent tragedies at Fort Hood and centers of Jewish life in Kansas City. I cannot help but wonder: Were there too few victims for this to capture our attention?
Take the Fort Hood shooting: Instead of a serious discussion on the connections between mental health and gun violence, most of what I heard were some members of Congress on TV arguing for allowing guns on bases, even though our military leaders say this would make servicemembers less safe.
We need a comprehensive approach: a surge in mental health services, mental health “first aid” programs to identify and intervene in problems before it’s too late, and a background check system that will stop the most dangerous among us from buying guns, by getting records in the system and closing the Internet and gun-show loopholes.
The many members of Congress who refuse to take action to make our communities safer surely hope the shameful lack of attention on the root causes of gun violence, and steps to prevent it, means that the call for action is fading, and we are giving up. Far from it.
Today, the organization founded by my husband, Mark, and me, Americans for Responsible Solutions, stands stronger than ever. Since our founding, more than 500,000 Americans have joined, and more than 160,000 Americans have donated. That’s why we are more ready than ever to take our fight to the state and local level.
We have done our homework, and the numbers don’t lie: From Texas to New Hampshire and everywhere in between, we know that support for policies such as expanded background checks continue to be popular in both parties. Gun owners and non-gun owners alike agree on expanding background checks, making gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties, making it illegal for all stalkers and all domestic abusers to buy guns, and expanding mental health resources so the mentally ill find it easier to receive treatment than to buy firearms.
This is why common-sense gun policies are a winning political issue. Still, we are not naive; we understand that there will always be some in Congress who remain paralyzed by the grip of the gun lobby. Leaders at the National Rifle Association, who get paid handsomely for shilling for inaction and peddling fear, will be a force this fall.
But so will we. In the absence of a Congress ready to act to reduce gun violence, we will keep working to create a different Congress.
And come November, surely some of those politicians who were unwilling to stand up to the gun lobby a year ago will face the consequences at the ballot box. They will wish desperately that they had heeded the will of their constituents.