Op-ed: Obama must work with Congress on gun control
By sidestepping Congress on gun-control issues, the Obama administration would overlook bipartisan solutions, writes guest columnist Dave Reichert.
Special to The Times
ON Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden presented his recommendations on combating gun violence. We all share the president and vice president’s concerns and I applaud their efforts. We all want our communities to be a safe place to live, work and play. We should demand no less, especially when it comes to making sure our kids are safe.
Acts of horrific violence, such as the recent, tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., must be stopped.
But with all due respect, the White House cannot address the epidemic of violent crime on its own. America needs to be engaged and involved at every level of our society. True solutions will only present themselves when we work together.
I strongly urge the Obama administration to work with Congress, and not around us through executive order. By sidestepping Congress, the Obama administration would overlook our constitutional obligations and real bipartisan solutions.
Bipartisan solutions are possible. I know; I have led them. In 1999, as the sheriff of King County, we formed the King County Violent Firearms Crime Coalition to reduce gun violence. This initiative helped reduce gun violence by improving training in firearm-related investigations, streamlining prosecutorial procedures for gun crimes and supporting practices identified as significantly impacting firearm-related crime.
King County’s coalition was so successful it was recognized as a model for the nation by then-Vice President Al Gore. I represented King County’s coalition in the national effort to reduce gun crime as a part of the Safe Cities initiative, a team of 10 agencies. The initiative was so effective in helping to reduce gun and other violent crime that it was extended under the George W. Bush administration as Project Safe Neighborhoods.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have two successful models to work from. It is once again time to shine a light on strategies that work to prevent gun violence — I am working to revive the Safe Cities program so that best practices to reduce gun violence can be shared across the country.
However, I don’t believe we should stop there. In the coming weeks, I will introduce legislation authorizing the use of existing federal funds to enhance and improve school safety by modernizing and upgrading school technology and infrastructure.
Whether the money is spent on metal detectors or school safety officers, this will help ensure that schools have the resources they need to stop potential assailants from ever making it to classrooms.
I believe there is bipartisan support for making databases and background checks more comprehensive and to improve the services available for those suffering from mental illness. We have an obligation as Americans to make sure our nation’s citizens are protected from harm’s way — these heartbreaking tragedies must be stopped.
As a law-enforcement officer for 33 years, I realize in a very personal sense just how dangerous weapons are in the wrong hands. I am concerned about the violence that results from criminal use of firearms and the incidents of criminal possession of firearms. However, the best way to deal with crime is not to limit the availability of firearms to law-abiding citizens, but to enforce our laws to ensure that criminals do not obtain weapons in the first place and are penalized for their misuse. These criminals must be held accountable.
As we move forward in the 113th Congress, my Democratic, Republican colleagues and I must come together to find effective solutions without violating the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
This isn’t a Democratic issue. This isn’t a Republican issue. Upholding the Second Amendment and protecting our nation’s citizens are promises that we make as elected officials the day we are sworn into office. I look forward to making good on these promises with my colleagues in the weeks ahead.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, represents Washington’s 8th Congressional District. He previously served as King County sheriff.