Dear Congressman Zeldin,
Every American is saddened and appalled by the massacre in Las Vegas. Yet while the public is overwhelmingly united in wanting Congress to act, you continue to try to divide us by belittling and misrepresenting the positions of gun violence prevention constituents and scaring pro-gun constituents by egregiously mischaracterizing the solutions being suggested.
Rep Zeldin, your overwrought claim to be ready to lay down your life to prevent something like Las Vegas from ever happening again would be a little more credible if you had the courage to support even one of the practical solutions that both gun owners and gun-violence prevention advocates support and that well-respected researchers have deemed effective.
In answer to your recent response to the Las Vegas shooting in the form of a condescending 10-point plan to the gun violence prevention community, our answer is this: We are not idiots. We are tired of being lectured to. We’re tired of platitudes and recycled talking points and no action. We are especially insulted by the tone of your snarky list of criticisms against us, which we feel compelled to answer:
1) Not one of the many respected gun-violence-prevention groups demeans gun owners or is threatening the second amendment or gun ownership. Gun owners and cops and veterans are volunteers and members of our Boards! Stop using the NRA’s caricature of who the advocates of stronger laws are, and what we want. Try actually reading and listening instead. Since Las Vegas, gun violence groups have never had so many gun owners say they’ve had enough and now want to work for stronger laws.
2) I’m sorry if you’re feelings are hurt because some advocates hold you personally responsible for the ongoing slaughter on our streets, or for not backing laws to keep guns away from terrorists or away from the severely mentally ill who are so impaired they can no longer handle their own affairs. But as the body count mounts, year after year, I suggest that it would be much more upsetting if citizens weren’t furious at Congressional inaction when their loved ones are being killed every day. And by the way, if you want to talk about abuse, your pro-gun allies intimidate and threaten us constantly – on social media, at peaceful vigils and educational rallies, and at our places of work. And did I mention that your guys are armed and most of us are not? Your allies have posted photos of the kids and homes of the women I work with, and I can’t imagine how many hours of close-up footage of us your video-toting Oathkeeper friends must have. It’s a nasty form of intimidation.
3) We get it that that Hillary is your favorite whipping post but let’s set her aside (she is not in office, you are) and actually talk about silencers. Let’s talk about all the law enforcement groups that oppose deregulating them because it will make their jobs harder, including the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA), the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the Police Foundation (PF), which together comprise the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence.
4) We all agree that a lack of interest in facts is appalling. But in the heat of the moment after a terrifying massacre, police and government officials (and the media) are trying to communicate using the information available, then correcting it as more is known. What I find disturbing is not a mistake in the heat of the moment but afterwards, when you continue to refuse to consider any research or reports that don’t back up your pro-gun myopia. If you want truth, why don’t you vote to fun gun violence research? What are you afraid of?
5) Playing with semantics about the definition of an “assault weapon” is an effete and cowardly way to avoid the issue that weapons developed for use in war have no place on our streets. Other developed countries have no problem defining – and banning — assault-style weapons and do not have the kind of mass murders that we keep seeing over and over again. I have offered to introduce you to longtime gun shop owner and a blogger for stronger gun laws, Mike Weisser, who would be more than willing to enlighten you on the subject.
6) Accusing people who don’t want terrorists carrying guns of being emotional and frivolous is a characterization that’s beneath contempt. Americans do not lack interest in keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. The vast majority of Americans support this measure – gun owners and reformers alike — and Congressional obstruction and your purposely unworkable bill, offered as a killer to the real proposal, is the flaw. Why does your concern for the accuracy of the Terror Watch list begin and end only when “no fly no buy” is mentioned. May I once again remind you that Americans make up only 0.5% of the total number in all the US Terror Watch Lists databases?
7) At a guess, people will stop tying you to the NRA when you stop taking their money, spouting their talking points, and offer one position that is at odds with their agenda of selling more and more guns and devices to the American public.
8) Misleading statistics? Yours are the ones out of date. In 2016 the numbers of gun fatalities soared to 36,000. Moreover, gun suicides are a major focus of many in the gun violence prevention community. We do not hide that fact. You maybe don’t care that there’s an epidemic of suicide among white rural males but we do. We think it’s a preventable, national tragedy. You maybe don’t care that there’s an epidemic of suicide among Veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD, but we do, and we – and the mental health community — are working hard to prevent that, even as you’ve voted to overwhelmingly cut back funding for mental health.
9) We work with the victims of gun violence every single day and their pain is often overwhelming to bear. We do not criticize anyone for sending prayers to them. But prayers are not enough, especially from our elected leaders, especially not now. The criticism is directed at you and other electeds who offer prayers, then do nothing.
10) By mentioning the creation of gun-free zones, I guess you’re referring to keeping guns out of schools and off college campuses, where the debate is most fierce right now. You’re right. Administrators, professors, students, campus police and parents have all strongly opposed guns on campuses whenever they’re introduced, but pro-gun politicians in several GOP states think they know better and have passed these measures anyway. Since the proposals are new, we can’t yet measure the result yet, but after the shooting Oct. 9th 2017, of a Texas Tech campus police officer, guns on campus looks like as bad an idea as everyone feared. I would point out that it is exceedingly ironic that the NRA forbids guns inside its convention hall and the US Congress and almost every legislature, including those controlled by the GOP, do not allow guns. Why exactly is that?
Finally, we are not the ones in an echo-chamber, Mr. Zeldin: We suggest you leave yours. Whenever you want to. We’re still waiting for an open town meeting.
Sincerely your constituent,