STATE SEN. FIELDS: Doing nothing about gun violence is cowardice

Raquel Martinez, comforts her two daughters while her husband, Daniel Martinez, comforts their sons outside Robb Elementary School, on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Martinez and her four children stayed home for days, holding each other. They’re scared, she said. Her two daughters, 15 and 11 years old, stood crying at a memorial. They’d both been taught by the two teachers who died, Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity — it’s inhumanity. The truth is, one nation under guns.”

Over the past few weeks, those words from poet and activist Amanda Gorman have been on my mind as our nation has once again been devastated by tragic, repeated outbursts of mass gun violence. 10 people died at the hands of a white supremacist gunman in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. 21 people – including 19 children – were murdered in Uvalde, Texas. Days later, four people were murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All together, the U.S. has suffered at least 246 mass shootings in 2022 alone.

Those communities join an ever-growing list, alongside now-familiar names – Boulder, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Parkland, and our own community here in Aurora – that have been shattered by such senseless, and preventable, tragedy.

Attention-grabbing, mass shootings like these are horrifically common, each one adding a fresh layer of horror that families across the country feel every day due to gun violence, breaking communities apart and leaving devastation in their wake. 

I know firsthand the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence. In 2005, my son, Javad, and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe, were murdered. Right here in Aurora, my beloved son was shot and killed – a tragic memory that has left a mark on my family forever. There are no words to explain the pain and grief I still feel every day, a pain I share with far too many. But somehow, I kept going and turned my pain into purpose – my son’s death is the reason why I ran for office and it’s the reason why I am calling for an end to this senseless violence today.

In 2020, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC. That’s more than 100 of our friends and neighbors, our parents, our siblings, and even our children who are shot and killed every single day, casualties of our nation’s obsession with guns.

And yet, shamefully, we as a society haven’t found it within ourselves to loudly proclaim that enough is enough and put an end to this senseless violence once and for all. 

We’ve taken steps here in Colorado to address the problem where we can. After 10 people were killed in the King Soopers mass shooting in Boulder, we passed six gun violence prevention bills, making 2021 one of the most productive gun reform sessions in Colorado legislative history.

Those bills strengthened our background check system, further restricted those with violent records from accessing any firearms, mandated safe storage requirements, and removed the statewide preemption so that local governments could pass their own gun violence prevention ordinances. 

Thanks to that work, Colorado communities have recently passed measures to ban the sale and possession of assault-style weapons, raise the minimum age for firearm possession to 21, and  limit ammunition magazine sizes – measures that  have been proven time and time again to  prevent gun violence.

We also established the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which treats gun violence in communities as the public health issue that it is, and in 2019, we passed a ‘Red Flag’ law, which enables a family or household member or a law enforcement officer to petition the court for a temporary extreme risk protection order if a person poses a significant risk to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.

Those efforts have proven successful, and I am hopeful that more is to come. Yet the bloodshed continues, here and across the country, and a patchwork of state laws can only do so much to address the problem. How much more violence are we willing to accept? How many more kids have to die before we take widespread action and put an end to these tragedies?

It remains far too easy for individuals in this country to obtain weapons that can kill so many in such a short amount of time. There is no place for assault-style weapons on our streets or in our neighborhoods, and it will take federal action to truly address this crisis once and for all.

The time to act is now. Doing nothing in the face of such utter tragedy is nothing less than an unacceptable act of cowardice. The United States is the only country in the world where this happens regularly. Allowing children to be murdered in their schools is a policy choice. Allowing our neighbors to be murdered at the grocery store is a policy choice. 

It’s time to stand up to the gun lobby, and to Republicans in Congress, who are holding this country hostage and demand action on gun violence prevention.

Congress must take the reins and enact real, meaningful gun safety legislation that will improve public safety and save lives. Raising the age to buy semiautomatic weapons, like the ones used in Uvalde and Buffalo, is only the first step. We must go further. We must expand background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to society. We must improve our safe storage laws, so that folks who do legally own guns can do so safely and securely. We must reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, which was successful in reducing instances of gun violence in our communities before it expired.

There are any number of ways we can act to create the safer communities we deserve – the only thing we cannot do is nothing.

I am pleased to see that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has reached a deal to start addressing gun violence and safety. It’s an improvement that will save lives and keep guns out of the hands of those who want to harm others. I am hopeful this framework passes, and that it represents the beginning, not the end, of Congress’ efforts to reduce the staggering amount of gun violence in our country.

Gun violence in America will never end completely. But this is the moment – we cannot let this opportunity go by without making real change to improve public safety – because thoughts and prayers will never stop this endless cycle of pain and suffering across our country. By taking a few commonsense steps, we can save countless lives and keep more families and communities together. 

My son’s life mattered. All of our kids’ lives matter – we can show this country that we value our children’s lives more than guns. Let’s prove it. 

State Sen. Rhonda Fields is an Aurora Democrat, representing Colorado Senate District 29. 

 

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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
13 days ago

Cowardice and ego. Why are some so beholden?

Don Black
Don Black
13 days ago

While I agree with much of what Fields has to say here, I wish that she would face her own cowardice in not addressing the disastrous police reform bill that she pushed so hard. It is badly flawed and vindictive in nature. It has resulted in the loss of many hundreds of good police officers here in Colorado and has forced the rest to refrain from active police work. Proactive police work is no longer possible. The definitions of the use of force are so vague as to make any use of necessary force open to question. The definition of the chokehold includes a statement that seems to indicate that an officer has violated the prohibition if they just fall on the suspect during a struggle. Officers are now being prosecuted if they just touched a suspect’s neck.

The goal of making stops and arrest proportionate by race is not possible if officers are really doing their job. For instance, the studies, and my own experience, show that black suspects are disproportionately involved in crime. It is silly to think that fairness means that we have to make arrests and stops proportionate. The leading cause of death for young black males is other young black males. Fields own son was a victim of this. The mass shootings that you hear about in the news are most often the result of young black males shooting at each other. They are killing far more people than the much publicized white supremacists. When young black males are involved in these shootings, the media will not mention race. Chicago is not being shot up by white supremacists. Many of the hate crimes you hear about are actually black suspects assaulting Asian Americans.

Other parts of the police reform bill force officers to report use of force by other officers that is not excessive out of fear that someone else might call them excessive. One minor use of force that is judged by some chief or internal affairs unit to be excessive means that an officer is automatically decertified by Colorado POST and can no longer be a police officer. This is a major problem since police chiefs are often politically motivated and poorly informed on use of force. Internal affairs units are often also staffed by officers who are open to suggestion from the chief or poorly informed on use of force. In the past, a young officer who erred in a minor fashion, could be disciplined or corrected and learn from the mistake. Now, that officer is simply fired.

I could go on, but I won’t. Simply stated, Rhonda Fields and her fellow legislators have done horrendous damage to law enforcement in Colorado. She, her fellow legislators, and the chiefs and sheriffs are guilty of arrogance and cowardice in not correcting the errors in the police reform bill that are driving good people away from policing. Further, the police reform bill is keeping officers from doing their job in protecting the public. So, I am angered when I see the self righteous way Fields presents herself. I challenge Fields, or anyone else to publicly debate me on the police reform bill issue. They won’t. They have to hide behind the misinformation they put out.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
11 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

“Proactive police “work”. Bums on the public dole. Can Don confirm that he ever had a real job? Follow the money folks. Ask for an actual accounting of your tax dollars spent for crime “prevention” You won’t get it and they will admit that it can’t be quantified. If they worked for an actual entity that made a profit they would be fired, not for incompetence, but because their budget is a sink hole dragging the organization into bankruptcy. Don, produce a spreadsheet that shows the connection between increased police budgets and lower crime. Show the taxpayers your pride in your work by giving absolute specifics about any action that you or other “officer” has taken that has prevented a specific crime in the future. Not some anecdotal story, but real facts and figures. There is no real-world connection between your activities as a welfare recipient and the prevention of one scumbag shooting another scumbag or some thug stealing my car. We all know that you’ll show up at my home after I get a bullet through my head and draw a chalk line around me. What is the complete accounting of the tax dollars that you and yours have stolen for that privilege?

Justin
Justin
8 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

I can confirm Don had a “real job”, I used to work for him. I can also vouch for him trying to streamline processes in the department that would allow the Officers back onto the street quicker, trying to buck the administration who was trying to continually bog them down with process.
The problem with the police is they are the most visible and easily targeted. The components reach all the way up to Sen Fields, who had zero experience in politics, ruling by emotion. That set up laws that have handcuffed police on the street. That sentiment has swept the nation and has been attributed back to the Ferguson effect. Feel free to disagree with the politics but I have witnessed it first hand.
Proving the ability to prevent crime is extremely easy to do but you have to get everyone on board. The same people are getting arrested day after day because the judges keep letting them out due to political pressure. Even the VP is pushing bail funds to keep the jails empty. You start locking the habitual criminals up, holding them accountable and their future victims are no longer victims.
My fingers are crossed that the interim chief will steer the department back towards an actual crime fighting entity, backed by prosecutors that will prosecute, judges who will actually put and keep criminals in jail and legislators that support all of the above. The realist in me however sees a society that continues to demonize those in the criminal justice sector while holding bogus martyrs up on a pedestal.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
8 days ago
Reply to  Justin

My comment hsd nothing to do with politics and everything to do with accounting for tax dollars spent. Respond with actual information that the billions spent for welfare recipients like Don (and you, I believe we can assume) results in a reduction in crime in any way that can be measured in any context to dollars and cents. Investigating crime is real job. Prevention of crime is a scam and you and Don know it, yet you continue to steal from the public. But thieves are like that. Aren’t they?

Justin
Justin
7 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

You sound pleasant. I largely agree with you about wasted money going towards policing. You can throw all the money you want at fighting/preventing crime and it will not help until the powers that be want it to actually help. Politics is tied to the amount of tax money used on law enforcement because actual police work is not palatable to the feel-good public. It just results in more money getting thrown at optically pleasant programs that simply do not work.

Unfortunately, nothing will change until the populace truly wants to treat criminals as criminals.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
7 days ago
Reply to  Justin

I always treat criminals as criminals. I would gladly shoot one given the right circumstances. We are responsible for our own safety. Hired thugs (the police) are the opposite side to the same coin as any street criminal. They are the same people, except they steal my tax money intead of ripping off my property. They are gang members, loyal to other members of their gang. There is no actual police work in connection to preventing crime. The real police investigate crime. I am willing to pay for that. I am willing to remove the budget from Don’s gang members and hire more people to investigate actual crimes commited and once that is accomplished, I am willing to pay for jail occomidations for those convicted. I am not willing to pay for a bunch of uniformed thugs that accomplish nothing.

Justin
Justin
7 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

It is comical how similar we are on this issue with the exception of your bigoted views. I am sorry for whatever interaction you have had with the police for you to have this opinion towards them.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
7 days ago
Reply to  Justin

I have never had any interaction with gang members and as long as they don’t move next door or try to date my daughter, all is well. Cops, apparently , are used to getting their behind kissed becsuse they wear a clown suit. They get defensive when you threaten their rice bowl. You appear to be part of the problem. The solution is pay for performance. Laugh at that

Don
Don
6 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

It’s so weird to see someone who is obviously part of the problem lack so much self-awareness.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
6 days ago
Reply to  Don

“Self awareness” Psycho bable at its finest. The problem is uniformed thugs ripping off taxpayers. One might guess that you are on the public dole as well. Or are you just the standard boot licker that enjoys cheating taxpayers.Which is it?

Justin
Justin
8 days ago

I am sorry her son was killed but that does not make her a policy expert, as shown by her horrible decision making in the State Senate. Guns are not the problem, our culture is. Until that is addressed, all else will be fruitless.