Setting a direction for L.A. on banning assault weapons

“For every mass shooting that seizes the country’s attention, it is important to remember the many people who are victims and survivors of gun violence every day.”

Los Angeles city controller Wendy Greuel is former president pro tempore of the Los Angeles City Council, and is running for mayor of L.A. She supports a bill to ban assault weapons across the United States.

When I heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the first thing I wanted to do was run to my 9-year-old son’s school and hug him and make sure he was safe. The horrific shootings also made me think back to 13 years ago when a man carrying a submachine gun walked into the lobby of a Jewish Community Center in the neighborhood where I grew up and sprayed 70 bullets toward a crowd of children.

The stark truth is that despite some sensible gun laws having been enacted, wide-open loopholes and high-pressure lobbying have led to a situation where no place is truly safe from the threat of gun violence. The Newtown shooter, like other perpetrators of mass killings, wielded a semiautomatic assault rifle, equipped with high-capacity magazines. Neither has any place in our society.

Too many states have lax or insufficient background checks. And in California, it is easier to buy high-powered ammunition than it is to buy an antihistamine.

We need common-sense reforms, and we need them now. That’s why I support the renewal of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill to ban assault weapons, and why I stand with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns to take action to close the gun loopholes that allow mentally disturbed individuals and those with criminal records to buy guns. The extreme voices that for too long have shouted down responsible dialogue and reasonable policies may, at long last, be surpassed by the rest of us — Americans coming together and calling for real change.

Shootings like Sandy Hook raise multiple questions. What could drive someone to commit such an act? Is our culture to blame? The media? Our mental-health system? These questions all deserve serious consideration, and some soul searching.

For every mass shooting that seizes the country’s attention, it is also important to remember the many people who are victims of gun violence every day. According to Slate.com, in just under a month since Newtown, there have been at least 695 gun deaths.

My family is still dealing with the aftermath of the murder of my cousins, who were killed when an armed man broke into their house nearly four years ago. Too many other families in Americare living with that kind of loss as well.

I’m encouraged by the direction the White House appears to be moving in, including the efforts being led by Vice President Joe Biden. A firm federal response is long-overdue, and could help spur further policy actions at the state and local level throughout the country.

Los Angeles has to be part of that effort. I’ve supported efforts to license ammunition vendors and require that their transactions occur face to face. And sadly, it’s still easier to get a gun than mental health services, a backward situation if ever there was one. I want to hear from other Angelenos, too, as we come together and discuss what other sensible and responsible steps our city can take.

We can’t just wring our hands and write off gun violence as an insurmountable problem. It is a national crisis that requires our immediate and full attention. I don’t ever want to have to rush to my son’s school fearing for his safety. I do want to be able to tell him I stood up and did my part to create safe schools and a safer environment for everyone.