Gun control is an emotional issue, and I have engaged in many heartfelt conversations with constituents on both sides of the issue. As a father and grandfather, I share the desire to prevent future tragedies like Sandy Hook and Aurora.
History has shown that gun control laws don't prevent mass shootings. By definition, criminals are not law-abiding citizens. Universal background checks would not have prevented the Sandy Hook massacre, nor would they have prevented the tragic murder of Carolinas Medical Center executive Robert Barber. In these and so many other cases, the guns were stolen.
In addition, government does a horrible job of enforcing our existing gun control regulations. In 2010, various government agencies declined to prosecute 77,000 gun law violations. Shouldn't we first ensure our existing gun control laws are working and being enforced before creating new laws? Much of what has been proposed since Sandy Hook amounts to a knee-jerk, feel-good reaction. Local law enforcement has told me the proposals won't work.
Most important, restrictive gun control measures violate the Constitutional rights of law-abiding American citizens. In ordering the Bill of Rights, our Founding Fathers placed "the right to keep and bear arms" second in importance only to the "freedom of speech," making the Second Amendment a key plank in the Ship of State.
Every right comes with an equal responsibility, and careless exercise of our rights can be detrimental to society as a whole. However, the actions of an errant few who abuse their freedoms should not curtail the rights of law-abiding Americans.
We must do a better job keeping guns from those with serious mental illness. Local sheriffs tell me that HIPPA regulations often prevent them from checking mental health records when processing applications for gun permits. Congress should change HIPPA to accommodate gun safety needs while still protecting the sensitive nature of this information. We also need to make sure families and local law enforcement have the resources they need to help those suffering from serious mental illness.
The only true and lasting solution is to work on the heart of our Nation -- to fight back against the glorification of violence in music, the movies, and other media. Only when our Nation regains its moral footing will our children be truly safe.