By Katie Hill
On Nov. 7, I found out that you elected me to be your member of Congress. Our team planned to go line dancing at Borderline Bar & Grill that night to celebrate, but we were all too tired and decided to go the next night instead. On Nov. 8, I woke up to a panicked call from a friend who thought we had gone as originally planned. That’s when I learned 13 people were dead and even more injured in a shooting that took place exactly when and where my team and I were supposed to be. Our campaign interns lost friends, my stepsister’s roommate climbed out of a window to escape, and our community was left reeling from a tragedy too close to home.
And every week since, communities across the country have continued to lose loved ones to gun violence.
On July 28, a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival injured 12 and killed three, including a 6-year-old boy. On Aug. 3 in El Paso, a shooting at a Walmart killed 22 and injured 24. Less than 24 hours later, a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, injured 27 and killed nine.
While these tragedies have been pretty well covered by the media, there were 16 other incidents across the country this week that meet the criteria of a mass shooting. All told, in a single week in the United States, 100 people were left dead and another 119 injured from mass shootings. This violence is heartbreaking, unimaginable, and now, commonplace.
As your congresswoman, I cannot simply tweet, “My heart is with the victims and their families,” every few weeks. That is not my job. My job is to take action. My job is to save lives. That’s why you elected me and that’s why I go to work every single day. So, here’s what I’m working on to address this epidemic.
Back in February, the House passed its first gun violence prevention legislation in decades. One bill would expand background checks (H.R. 8) and the other would close the Charleston loophole (H.R. 1112), which enabled Dylann Roof, the murderer of nine innocent churchgoers in Charleston, to get his hands on a handgun he would have otherwise been denied due to a delay in his background check processing. These bills are great first steps, but they’re also not enough.
I’m a co-lead of the TAPS Act, which is a bipartisan bill to develop a national strategy to prevent violence like these mass shootings through behavioral threat assessments, strengthening the ability of law enforcement to stop tragedies before they happen. This isn’t a bill about regulating gun purchases, but that’s because we need to address this crisis from every single angle.
Experts from The Violence Project, a nonpartisan think tank for research on policy related to reducing violence, identified four commonalities among mass shooters: childhood trauma, current crisis, a fascination with other mass shooters and mass casualty events, and a means to carry out violence. We need to use this information to make the best, most comprehensive laws to save as many lives as possible, but we need more data. That’s why a big focus of my efforts has been working to make sure that the Centers for Disease Control has the funding to conduct research on gun violence. That’s how we’ll be able to pass holistic laws that focus on threat assessment, mental health evaluations and support, and keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people.
Though there are a lot of good ideas and some lawmakers are taking action, I’m still extremely angry. And you should be too. I’m angry that in the House, my colleagues and I are focused and dedicated to this fight – but the Senate simply won’t act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has continuously refused to vote on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 in the Senate. He has refused to vote on the Violence Against Women Act, which closes other critical loopholes related to domestic partner violence. And, he hasn’t voted on our appropriations package, which would provide $50 million to fund research into gun violence prevention.
Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues must be held accountable for this total abdication of duty. As people are dying and families are being torn apart, they are folding to the pressure of the NRA – which has spent $1.6 million over the course of the year lobbying the Senate to ensure the bills we passed continue to sit on McConnell’s desk. The public pressure has to continue in every possible way, because that’s the only way McConnell will take action. Otherwise, the NRA will win over the security of our communities.
That’s why our community is coming together: join me on Wednesday, Aug. 14, for an evening of action organized by our local leaders. Details to come – sign up at https://www.katiehillforcongress.com/action. Together, let’s get loud and ensure Mitch McConnell knows that if he won’t take action, we will.
Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, represents the 25th Congressional District, which includes the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.