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Safety in numbers

Senseless tragedies involving gun violence have become all too common in America. Over the past few years, whether a shooting happens at a school, church, nightclub or movie theater, little progress has been made to address this very real problem.

Following the Parkland shooting a few weeks ago, thousands of students from across the country, including right here in New Mexico, made clear that they are not willing to sit on the sidelines and are taking the issue of gun violence head-on. These courageous students have changed the national conversation by using every form of media to express their outrage at the lack of meaningful action on this issue.

They are putting elected officials and adults on notice; they are demanding mature and significant solutions to a national problem that impacts their lives and the future of our country.

As high school student Emma Gonzales said in a speech that has since gone viral, “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shootings in America, but because… we are going to be the last mass shooting. We are going to change the law.”

On Wednesday, March 14, I attended National Walkout Day. I was proud to stand with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in honor of the 17 students, teachers, coaches, sons, daughters, husbands and friends that lost their lives in February. I was also moved by the students from Aztec High School in my district who participated in a “walk up” – to promote kindness and meaningful change in every way – from getting involved with local charities to walking up to classmates who may need a friend or someone to talk to. So many young people are actively shaping their own futures and fighting to make positive progress in our country. They are not acting out of anger, depression or isolation. They are acting out of a necessity to ensure the country they call home takes them seriously.

We can already see the impact students are having on this debate. Several major companies have cut ties with the NRA, and nationwide protests are scheduled for this weekend with an outpouring of support from teachers, faculty and concerned citizens.

To the thousands of students and citizens across the country who are speaking up, especially in New Mexico: I want you to know that I hear you, I am listening and I stand with you.

From Sandy Hook to Parkland to Aztec, these tragedies impact people from all walks of life, in every corner of our country, and right here in New Mexico. I have heard first-hand the voices of survivors in Florida and in New Mexico and I agree: there are actions we can take right now to reduce gun violence. Children should no longer go to school – or a library, a movie theater or a concert – scared for their safety.

That is why I joined over 150 of my colleagues to co-sponsor a ban on future sales of assault weapons and signed a discharge petition to force a vote on legislation to expand background checks and close existing loopholes, including the gun show loophole.

I support overturning the Dickey Amendment, which needlessly bans the use of federal dollars to research the gun violence epidemic. I support measures to prevent people on the terrorist and FBI watch lists from purchasing weapons, to limit magazine size, and to ban bump stocks.

In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for its future.” Let us all embrace these words and follow the lead of these courageous and determined young people.

We do not have to sacrifice the Second Amendment for common-sense public safety. We do not have to choose between the freedom to pursue an education or practice our faith and finding smart solutions to gun violence in America.

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