REP. TOM SULLIVAN: Bloomberg is the right leader on gun safety

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Since 1999, the year that two student gunmen attacked Columbine High School, more than 11,000 Coloradans have died from a firearm.

My son, Alex, was one of them.

He was murdered on the night of his birthday in an Aurora movie theater.

Guns are the second-leading cause of death for children and teens in our country. A woman in America is five times more likely to be killed during a domestic confrontation if her partner has access to a gun. The rate of suicides involving guns in the U.S. is ten times higher than other high-income countries, and the homicide rate is twenty-five times higher.

In Colorado, 885 people were killed by guns in 2018. On average, 51 children and teens in our state are killed by gun violence each year. For every 100,000 people in our state in 2018, there were 15.5 gun deaths — a rate that had dropped to 10.2 in 2000 but has been generally going up since then.

Rep. Tom Sullivan addresses the media during the signing ceremony of the “red flag bill”, April 12 in the governors office.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

With each mass shooting at a school, or house of worship, or concert venue, not only are innocent lives stolen from us, but our innocence itself slips further away. As we lose more lives, it feels like we care less. But it’s what happens when we also lose hope.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are common sense steps we can take to make our children and our communities safer. And there are leaders who are making the right choices, who aren’t beholden to special interests and the NRA. One of those leaders is Mike Bloomberg, and he’s who I support for president.

I sponsored House Bill 1177, known as Colorado’s red flag bill, in the last legislative session. It’s an example of a sensible law that will help save lives. The bill went into effect on January 1 of this year and within 15 days, four protection orders had been granted authorizing the temporary removal of guns from someone who poses a risk to themselves or others.

Bloomberg doesn’t support repealing the 2nd Amendment or confiscating the guns of responsible, law-abiding Americans. But he does support taking bold action to make our communities safer. The kind of action that is supported by a growing majority of Americans – the 60 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, who now say that gun laws should be tougher.

In the gun safety policy that Bloomberg recently outlined, he treats gun violence as the national crisis that it is. His plan is to create a system of effective background-checks and require a permit of every gun buyer before making a purchase. He’ll create a system to alert local authorities when a gun owner has been barred from having firearms.

He will close the “boyfriend loophole” that allows domestic abusers to have guns simply because they are not married to their victim. He will prohibit gun purchases by people under 21 years old and institute a waiting period of at least 48 hours.

His plan will better protect young people in schools and Americans in their homes by reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He will require secure firearm storage for all gun owners and ban guns in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, except for law enforcement. He will tackle daily gun violence in the hardest-hit communities, funding local violence intervention programs and public health research on gun violence.

Bloomberg has a track record of standing up to the gun lobby and of getting results. He won’t be afraid to take on the gun industry directly. As mayor of New York City, he took on gun dealers and gun show vendors across the country who were feeding the criminal market. Gun deaths decreased by 46 percent in the city during that time, and the gun death rate was less than a third of what it was in the rest of the country.

In Colorado, he has written personal checks to support legislators who have been targeted with recall elections because of their support for common sense gun safety measures.

I don’t want to comfort more fathers, to look into the eyes of more mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. I will continue to fight so that other families don’t go through what my family has gone through. But we need leadership at the highest level — at the White House — to give us hope that our fight is America’s fight, and that we can finally begin to stop this epidemic. Mike Bloomberg is that leader, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting him for this fight.

Tom Sullivan is a Democratic State House Representative from Centennial.