By Rep. Steve Israel
Hillary Clinton’s career has a common theme: She has taken positions that allow her to fight for children and families. From her first job out of law school working at the Children’s Defense Fund, to fighting for women’s rights and LGBT rights as First Lady, to supporting hardworking New York families as our U.S. Senator, Hillary has always put a premium on making our communities stronger and safer. When I campaigned with her on Long Island in 2000 when I was running for my House seat and she was running for the Senate, I marveled at her ability to connect with families from all backgrounds. And it’s no surprise that now, as a presidential candidate, Hillary has focused her campaign on breaking down barriers that continue to hold families back.
One of those barriers is the senseless gun violence epidemic that is plaguing our country, and Hillary has spent a significant part of her presidential campaign talking about the need to stop it. More than 30,000 Americans will lose their lives to gun violence this year—ripping apart families and communities alike. From mass shooting at churches and schools to urban gun violence on our streets, it has taken the lives of too many young people and disproportionately impacts the lives of young African-American men.
Hillary recently stood with Mothers of the Movement, a group of women who have lost children to gun violence. She spoke about the loss of their children saying, “The epidemic of gun violence spares no one, but it is concentrated in areas that are short on hope and where we still face the effects of systemic racism.” These mothers stood in support of Hillary because they know she will have their backs by turning words into action—just as I witnessed her do countless times for the people of New York.
So how do we address the gun epidemic and bring back hope to communities in need? It starts at the top. We need a president who will make reducing gun violence a priority from the moment she takes office. We need to elect someone who will stand up to gun manufacturers and fight for stronger background checks and common-sense gun safety measures—not someone who has sided with the gun lobby. On April 1, New Yorkers have the opportunity to help choose our next president.
We know where Republican candidates for president stand on gun safety—shoulder-to-shoulder with the NRA [National Rifle Association]. Surprisingly, Senator Bernie Sanders stands right there with them on issues like the Brady Bill, which strengthened background checks, and the Charleston loophole. Sanders voted against the Brady Bill multiple times and voted to create the Charleston loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to obtain a gun and murder nine Americans during their weekly bible-study class. He voted against an amendment to restore CDC funding to research firearm use. Sanders even sided with the gun industry over victims of gun violence, which is why the NRA endorsed Sanders’ position on gun manufacturer liability.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a long history of standing up to the NRA. She has a plan to put in place comprehensive background checks, hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and the severely mentally ill. It will be no surprise if and when the NRA launches misleading attack ads and a smear campaign against Hillary in New York—proving they feel threatened by her record.
Hillary is not a one-issue candidate, nor will she sit back and focus on the few. As we have seen throughout her career, Hillary will fight to break down all barriers that hold American families back. As she said in Wisconsin, she knows that many communities facing disproportionate levels of gun violence are short on hope and still face the effects of systemic racism. Hillary has the detailed plans to address racial injustice, reform our criminal justice system and bring hope back to these communities.
We have a lot of work to do to reduce gun violence in America and address the challenges that still plague many New York communities. When New Yorkers go to vote on April 19, I urge them to think of the families of gun violence and the consequences of not taking action, and then cast their vote for who they think is the best candidate to help end this national epidemic.