Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returned to Capitol Hill last Wednesday to address the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a moving plea on the issue of gun control. “Too many children are dying,” said Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence. Host Melissa Harris-Perry on Sunday discussed the effectiveness of the Giffords testimony on hastening gun control, and talked about the increasing number of gun-related fatalities that are occurring as we await reform.
“We can no longer pursue this… one bill at a time,” urged guest Richard Aborn of the Citizens of Crime Commission of New York City. Aborn discussed the extremely slow pace of legislation reform in this country. But he said there’s a great deal that the president can do on his own. He can encourage health organizations to do research and send public service messages about the dangers of guns, and can persuade the Department of Justice to increase law enforcement efforts on the streets.
Regardless of national policy, individual states have the freedom to apply or reject certain measures in their jurisdiction. NYU public policy professor Patrick Egan said that, nationally, “you’ve got all of those residents who are adamantly in favor of all kinds of gun control, but they are at the mercy of constituents, both down state and out of state, who are much less supportive of the idea.”
Even in cities like Chicago–which have some of the strictest gun laws in the country–gun violence is rampant, with continual record high homicide numbers. “Those gun laws aren’t comprehensive,” said founder of the Black Youth Project Cathy Cohen. Saddened by the shooting death last week of Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, Cohen called for President Obama to visit Chicago to address the issue. “We want him to come home,” Cohen said. The president has visited Aurora and Newtown, and, Cohen said, “our children are worthy also.”
Harris-Perry reminded the panel that the burden of responsibility does not fall solely on the president, but also on local governments. The mayor of Chicago spoke about Pendleton’s untimely death, and wholeheartedly supports comprehensive change. “It is not about the mayor’s sincerity, it is about holding the mayor accountable,” Cohen said. Pendleton joins Trayvon Martin–who would have turned 18 on Monday–Jordan Davis, Charles Poland Jr., and countless others on the list of those whose lives were cut short by guns. “We have that power. We have that obligation. We can do it–let’s finally do it,” Aborn said.
See more of our conversation below.