San Francisco Chronicle
By Jackie Speier
June 16, 2016

This is what our moments of silence have bought us: a near-silent nightclub where the only sound is the frantic ringing of cell phones that would never be answered. Silent bodies, where there should be life and love and pride. And in Washington, a silent Congress.

Mere words cannot express the depth of my rage and grief. Forty-nine lives lost. Forty-nine families devastated by the loss of their loved ones. Forty-nine phones ringing and ringing. There were also frantic texts, such as Eddie Justice’s final messages to his mother: “Mommy, I love you. He’s coming. I’m gonna die.”

If you can hear these words without your heart breaking, if you can think of those children gunned down in Newtown without grieving, if you can think of empty pews in Charleston without mourning, then you have lost your soul.

How many lives must be destroyed before Congress acts? Nine lives? Charleston showed us nine is not enough. Thirteen lives? Columbine showed us that 13 is not enough. Certainly 20 little children and six adults killed in their schoolhouse at Newtown? No. The 32 lives lost at Virginia Tech? Again, not enough lives. The more than 33,000 Americans killed each year by guns? Not enough. And now 49 people have been murdered in Orlando. Yet even this tragedy — the biggest mass murder since 9/11 — hasn’t been deemed big enough, horrific enough or insidious enough to break the weak-kneed, spineless, silent members of Congress.

Congress is happy to debate about bathrooms, but can we discuss gun violence? Absolutely not. House Republicans have refused to bring forward bills to stem the tide of violence. Some of us are fed up with the status quo. This is the moment to act.

There are simple actions we can take now — actions that would have reduced the deaths in Orlando, Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino and Umpqua Community College. Let’s make sure every gun purchase requires a background check, rather than just 60 percent of them. Why have we created a separate gun market for criminals, domestic abusers and the mentally ill?

Let’s close the loophole that allows 91 percent of known or suspected terrorists who walk into a gun store to walk out with a deadly weapon.

Let’s ban assault weapons. The American people are too familiar with the AR-15 and similar firearms. These are weapons designed to hunt humans in their most vulnerable places: the classroom, the movie theater, the nightclub.

Finally, let’s lift the ban on gun violence research so we can use science to finds ways to address this public health epidemic.

Would these policies stop all gun violence? Absolutely not. But it’s a start. I am repulsed by the “moments of silence” that are just for show. By remaining silent, we are complicit in these crimes.

It’s time to stop the idolatry of weapons of death.

Jackie Speier represents San Mateo County and a portion of San Francisco in the U.S. House of Representatives.