Why Millennials Want Congress to Act on Guns
President Obama will unveil a series of new policy proposals today which could be implemented immediately to help prevent gun violence, including 23 executive actions that would not require Congressional approval. It's been just a month since tragedy struck Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., renewing the national debate over gun violence.
Nationwide, calls for new regulations and protections have been increasing and Millennials are among the loudest voices calling for action.
The White House announcement today comes just days after our parent organization, the Center for American Progress, released a broad plan to prevent gun violence that included 13 clear-cut and common-sense recommendations that can be divided into three key areas:
- Better background checks
- Taking military-grade weapons off the streets and out of criminals’ hands
- Better data, better coordination, and better enforcement
Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) already said she would introduce legislation to reinstate the 1994 assault weapons ban she first championed and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he'd support it.
And while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lowered some expectations when he said an assault weapons ban is unlikely to pass in the House, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a longtime advocate of stricter gun laws, was still optimistic saying that Vice President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders involved in the “pro-gun-safety movement” are working to figure out how much they can do.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have both deflected questions about gun legislation, saying they’d wait for the proposal from the White House.
One of the major hurdles to progress on gun legislation has been the widely-held belief that the gun lobby wields too much influence in Congress for anything to get done. But as Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post, the political environment has changed and stronger support from voters for new gun legislation should embolden Democrats.
Sargent makes a powerful argument for why Democrats Leadership [C3?] should take a clear stand on the issue:
The constituencies that form the pillars of the emerging Democratic coalition—minorities, young Americans and college educated whites, particularly women—support the ban, in some cases overwhelmingly.
This underscores the ways in which gun control politics are changing—and why progressive no longer need to fear alienating the American public on the issue.
Sargent also pointed to a new Washington Post/ABC poll that showed a majority of people ages 18-39 (52 percent) support an assault weapons ban; support is even stronger among minorities (63 percent) and college-educated women (73 percent). The level of support from young people for stronger gun laws is made clearer by two other recent national polls. A National Journal poll puts Millennial support for tough gun reforms at 56 percent and a new Pew poll has it close to 60 percent.
Considering that young people are among the most impacted by gun violence, it’s no surprise that they are so strongly in favor of real reforms that will make us safer. An incredible 87 percent of youth killed by guns in the world’s 23 wealthiest nations are in the United States. In 2010 alone, 2,694 young people were killed by gunfire.
Some state legislators have said they think allowing college students to carry guns on campus is the answer, but that only puts young people at greater risk. Jack Bodden, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University, notes that the introduction of guns on campus increases the odds of violent conflicts.
What’s more, young Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in urban areas. Every day in America, 13 young people are the victims of homicide and more than 80 percent are killed with a firearm. More than 150 college presidents have already signed a letter calling on Washington to act.
It’s clear that Millennials are tired of inaction and want Congress to pass a bill that will have a real impact in the effort to combat gun violence. We need stronger, common sense gun laws that will keep us safe and we will be making our voices heard.
Young people are calling on Congress to act, and the push begins today with President Obama’s announcement.
Abraham White is a communications associate at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @abwhite7.