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Enough gun violence

Dec. 14 marked the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Yet a year later, we have done almost nothing to address the issue of gun violence.

I had truly hoped Newtown would finally be the tipping point. But instead, it turned out to be just like all the others — just another Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Brookfield, Oak Creek, or Tucson.

How much longer will we consider dead first-graders and school staff, domestic violence victims and other innocent casualties of gun crimes and suicides to be acceptable losses — simply collateral damage — sacrificed on the altar of easy access to deadly weapons?

Since Sandy Hook, more than 194 additional children have died as a result of gun violence. More children are shot and killed in this country every year than the total number of military personnel killed in the 12-year long war in Afghanistan. An American child is 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than his or her peers in 25 other high-income nations combined.

In the Wisconsin legislature, we can’t even have a discussion about sensible ways to increase firearm safety. I’ve written a bill to require universal background checks before all firearm sales. It won’t be scheduled for a public hearing. I wrote another to exempt locked gun safes from sales taxes to encourage gun owners to purchase these lifesaving tools. Not a single Republican signed on to cosponsor.

Background checks kept weapons out of the hands of 1.2 million criminals and more than 2 million dangerous people since the system’s inception. Apparently, the legislative leadership favors the status quo where convicted felons, people with restraining orders for domestic abuse and the mentally ill can avoid background checks by buying their guns online or from unlicensed private sellers.

It seems we’ve truly reached the point where politics and zealotry trump compassion and decency. Last month, majority Republicans refused to allow the Assembly to vote on a resolution honoring the memory of the Sandy Hook victims. It had already passed the Senate unanimously and had bipartisan co-sponsors. Have we really become so divided politically that we can’t even officially commemorate the lives of 20 dead children and the six adults who died trying to protect them?

People are rightly angry that our government seems to be handicapped by and beholden to special interest organizations. Why is the gun lobby an “extra-special” special interest group that gets veto power over the legislative process at both the state and federal levels?

Yet when legislators finally do have the backbone to say, “Enough!” they are subject to retaliation from the gun lobby who rally people that will never accept any curbs at all. In Colorado, home of the Columbine and Aurora shootings, two senators were recalled after the legislature voted to implement background checks and limited the capacity of ammunition clips.

A majority of people stayed home and didn’t even vote in the recall election. What does that say about our priorities? What message does it send to other politicians who want to do the right thing for our children, our families and our communities?

Gun rights should not and do not trump the right of every citizen, every child, to be safe at home and in the community. Every 30 minutes a child or teenager is shot, according to a study by the Children’s Defense Fund. Every three hours and 15 minutes one dies. Let today be the day we all stop rationalizing inaction and say enough is enough.

Rep. Terese Berceau serves the 77th Assembly District in Madison.

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