Sen. Cory Booker: I’ll bring the fight to the NRA like it’s never seen before

For the Monitor
Published: 5/12/2019 12:25:17 AM

We have an epidemic of gun violence in our country that leaves communities shattered by the trauma left in its wake. Young people and concerned citizens in New Hampshire, from Concord to Exeter to Nashua to Keene, have marched in the streets demanding justice and common-sense gun-safety laws. They’ve spoken out against politicians in the state who refuse to strengthen gun laws and instead do the bidding of the National Rifle Association.

Just like Granite Staters, I refuse to wait for more thoughts and prayers – empty words that do nothing to make our children and communities safer. That’s why I’ve just released a plan that introduces aggressive gun-safety measures – the most comprehensive gun violence prevention plan in decades – and brings the fight to the NRA like never before.

My plan to tackle this epidemic is simple: We will do everything we can to save as many lives as possible. That starts with ensuring that people who should never have access to a gun don’t get one. In addition to universal background checks and an assault weapons ban, we’re going to create a national licensing system for gun ownership. Because if you need a license to drive a car, you should need one to get a gun.

A mounting body of evidence shows that gun licensing programs are effective at reducing gun violence. For example, in Connecticut, researchers found a 40% drop in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in firearm suicides after the state passed a law that required a purchasing license for handguns.

A gun license demonstrates that a person is eligible and can meet certain basic safety and training standards necessary to own a gun. Individuals could seek a gun license at a designated local office, widely available in urban and rural areas, similar to applying for or renewing a passport. They would submit fingerprints, provide basic background information, and demonstrate completion of a certified gun-safety course.

The FBI would then verify submission of required materials and run a comprehensive background check before issuing a federal gun license, after which the license-holder could freely purchase and own firearms. The license would be valid for up to five years before renewal with regular, automatic checks to flag noncompliance with license terms.

Additionally, we’ll bring real regulation and oversight to gun manufacturers. Nowadays, there is more regulation over toy guns than real ones.

We’re going to require micro-stamping technology for handguns – which would help law enforcement trace guns used in crimes.

We’re going to close the loopholes that allow domestic abusers and people on terrorist watch lists to get their hands on a gun.

We’re going to dedicate funding for research on gun violence and treat it like the public health crisis that it is, and we’re going to increase trauma support for survivors and communities impacted by gun violence – because the effects of gun violence last a lifetime for survivors and their families and friends.

But we won’t wait for Congress to act. Beginning on day one of my presidency, I’ll take action to close dangerous loopholes in gun sales, crack down on unscrupulous dealers and gun manufacturers, and invest in communities impacted by gun violence. And I am immediately calling on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the NRA’s tax status to determine whether the self-dealing and other activities recently reported in the press should lead to revocation of its tax-exempt status.

This is a personal fight for me, one that is rooted in my experience living in Newark, N.J., and working to stem the tide of gun violence for the past 20 years as a tenant organizer, on the city council, as mayor and as a senator. In my community, kids fear fireworks on the Fourth of July because they sound like gunshots. In communities across the country, Americans are being killed and families are being torn apart. We must do better.

I am sick and tired of hearing thoughts and prayers for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence. It is time for bold action.

(Cory Booker represents New Jersey in the U.S. Senate and is a Democratic candidate for president.)

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