I grew up going to my family's farm outside of Baltimore, MD and learned how to shoot at a young age. Guns were a normal part of life on the farm. They were always treated with extreme caution, respect, and safety. It wouldn't be until my time in the Coast Guard that I realized how much of a problem our society has with guns.
I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after high school. I served as a federal law enforcement officer for half a decade, where I received extensive firearms training and was an expert marksman. Before being stationed in Charleston, I was assigned to the Coast Guard Police Department in Baltimore. This was the first time I observed poverty and violence, specifically gun violence, up close. My eyes were opened to a different America. I saw firsthand the impact of gun violence through the eyes of a law enforcement officer. But I also saw firsthand the importance of common sense gun laws as a preventative measure.
For the record, I support safe, legal, and responsible gun ownership. I am not an advocate for repealing the Second Amendment, and I have no interest in taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. But let's get real - we have a big problem in America, and guns are part of it.
At a time when guns are the number one killer of children, a time when a mass shooting can happen at your local grocery store, school, or business, we must stop and examine our conscience. Are we willing to live like this? Or can we address the problem without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens?
A majority of Americans stand in favor of common-sense gun laws, including universal background checks to ensure that individuals purchasing guns undergo a vetting process to prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who pose a risk to themselves or others.
However, there is more we can do, such as flagging high-risk individuals to undergo a mental health evaluation to ensure that guns are only in the hands of those who are capable of handling them responsibly. This requirement is something that military members who carry firearms already go through. How about safe storage laws to not only reduce gun theft but to prevent authorized access? We have to stop leaving guns unsecured in vehicles, homes, etc. We have to stop making it easy for children to access guns. These are common-sense measures that would not infringe on lawful gun ownership.
But let's talk about counterproductive laws that are currently on the books. Did you know there is a ban on a national digital gun registry? This prohibition limits law enforcement's capacity to trace firearms used in crimes and monitor gun trafficking. It's a law that not only complicates criminal investigations but also poses a barrier to preventing guns from reaching dangerous hands.
For example, if the Charleston Police recover a firearm used in a homicide, they send the serial number to the ATF for further information about the gun (e.g., where it was purchased from). One would think this would be a simple process where the ATF searches the serial number on a computer database and then promptly sends the information back to the police. Well, that's not how it works. Instead, ATF personnel must sift through boxes of paper files, which can take weeks or months. Check out this video explaining the process: How the US traces gun crimes.
In Congress, I will not only advocate for sensible gun laws supported by a majority of Americans but also fight to repeal defenseless laws like the ban against a national digital gun registry. We don't have a reason to wait, so let's get to work.