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Cohen 16 Dundalk Road Manorville, NY 11949 January 12, 2013 Dear Congressman, The horrific and senseless attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last month has sparked a conversation in communities across Long Island about how to best protect our children and ensure that something like this never happens again. As the father of a six year old daughter the events in Newtown affected me in a way no other event ever has. My daughter, Emma, is the same age as those beautiful angels who were gunned down in what should have been a place of peace and security. As her father, it is my responsibility to protect her. As a citizen, it is my responsibility to advocate for public policy that will protect all of our children. It has already been 30 days since the mass shooting in Newtown robbed us of the lives and potential contribution to society of 20 innocent children along with six members of the Sandy Hook Elementary School’s staff. As time passes Americans have a tendency to forget or to lose the sense of urgency that immediately follows events like this. Our children cannot afford for us to miss this opportunity for change. The President has indicated his willingness to take meaningful action to increase gun safety in America but many in Congress have continued to resist. You have always been a strong partner in our community’s efforts to tackle big challenges. Now our children need your help. There is nothing more important than the safety of America’s children and so it must be the first priority of the 113th Congress to immediately take meaningful action to reduce gun violence by imposing common sense regulations on the purchase, transfer and sale of firearms. To accomplish this, Congress must immediately introduce and pass a modernized version of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban to ensure that weapons whose sole purpose by design is to kill large numbers of people in a short period of time with little effort, as well as high capacity magazines that enable this kind of mass murder, are removed from civilian life. In addition, Congress must require states to share information including but not limited to criminal and mental health records with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and subsequently require that NICS be used to determine the eligibility of every firearms sale or transfer that occurs in the United States. This must also include sales and transfers that occur on the secondary markets such as gun shows and the internet which have long been a loophole used by criminals to acquire firearms with little scrutiny.
Besides creating a common sense regulatory structure to govern the legal sale and transfer of firearms, a comprehensive approach to improving gun safety must also include steps to address illegal purchase and possession. This process needs to include targeted legislation aimed at increasing enforcement of existing law while simultaneously strengthening the penalties for those who violate these laws. A creative approach to accomplishing this goal might also include legal incentives or immunity from liability for individuals who report illegal arms transfers to law enforcement. Another approach that many communities have begun utilizing to remove illegal guns from the streets is hosting gun buyback programs. These kinds of events allow individuals to trade their guns for cash with no questions asked and are an excellent opportunity to get large numbers of weapons off the street. The federal government can encourage this practice by helping to subsidize the cost of these events to municipalities. It is also worth considering that the weapons used in the Sandy Hook massacre were legally purchased but ultimately used for mass murder by an individual other than their legal owner. Congress should consider incentivizing the use of biometric devices on firearms that would prevent anyone other than the registered owner from firing the weapon. Finally, in recognition of the fact that the Sandy Hook massacre was the catalyst for the current focus on gun safety I believe that Congress should include in any legislative package financial subsidies for school districts and college campuses that enhance their current security systems. Since it is impossible for any of these proposals to completely eliminate the risk of violent incidents this kind of federal aid would help provide schools with an important line of defense against incidents that cannot otherwise be prevented. America’s gun violence problem is complex and rooted deep in our society. This is a controversial issue but it is one that we have a moral obligation to address. We owe it to communities like Littleton, Wakefield, Meridian, Brookfield, Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Tuscon, Oakland, Aurora, Newtown and others to do everything in our collective power to prevent the next mass shooting. I call on Congress to take action now to make America a safer place for all our children. Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Cohen President Southeastern Brookhaven Democratic Club