As I write this Op-Ed following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton Ohio a few days ago, my mind flashes back to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I remember that day so well.

On December 14, 2012, I sat in the middle of my living room floor, surrounded by bereavement plants, tear-soaked tissues and two of my favorite grave wreaths that had been decorated with toy cars, building blocks, crayons, and teddy bears. As CNN showed live coverage, my grief-wracked soul immediately connected with parents of the 20 children who were murdered by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I had called in sick that day from work, still wrestling with the senseless and tragic death of my youngest son, Rhema Elias Ingram, just 6 weeks before, on November 1, 2012.

Elias was 5 years old, just a year younger than many of the victims. I wanted to call every parent and offer my condolences! But my hands would not stop clenching, my lips would not stop quivering, my heart would not stop palpitating, my eyes would not stop crying; and my mind would not stop remembering… the last time I kissed, held and waived goodbye to Elias before sending him to school.

Six and a half years later, I write this Op-Ed in extension of my outrage in watching news coverage over the last 24 hours of the 255th mass shooting of the year in the United States. The El Paso mass shooting, like Sandy Hook, are among the ten deadliest shootings in American history according to the nonprofit research organization, Gun Violence Archive (GVA).

NC Senator Erica Smith, Candidate For The United States Senate

I went to bed last night to coverage of the El Paso, Texas mass shooting where 22 people were murdered, seven of whom were Mexican nationals. One of my last thoughts was of the previous Sunday’s mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, where 3 people, the youngest a 6 year-old and 11 other people were injured. I woke up this morning with the heaviness of learning that eight more victims of mass shootings had been murdered in Dayton, Ohio. A total of 31 people died in mass shootings within 24 hours in America.

Unfortunately, many of our elected officials are so self-serving and bereft of integrity that they routinely place special interests and politics over the lives of the people they purport to represent. These leaders have abdicated their duty to effectuate sound policy initiatives to prevent or reduce occurrences of these random acts of senseless violence, instead opting for personal gain.

More than 5 months ago, and close to the one year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, a bipartisan bill that provides common sense gun control measures by closing gun show loopholes. The law would prohibit person-to-person firearm transfers without background checks. The U.S. House also passed H.R. 1112 that would prohibit these same transfers or sales with firearm dealers, and would institute a minimum 10-day waiting period for background check system responses. And after the 255th mass shooting in 211 days of the calendar year, the U.S. Senate has yet to take up these bills.

In my first 100 days as North Carolina’s next U.S. Senator – I commit to file and advance common sense gun control legislation that includes the following provisions:

  • 1. Universal background checks, including components of existing federal proposals with 10-day waiting period for responses;
  • 2.  A ban on assault rifles and bump stocks;
  • 3. Closing gun show / retail to owner transfers / owner to owner transfers;
  • 4. Red flag limitations providing access for loved ones and family members to petition to remove firearms from gun owners during periods of incapacitation;
  • 5. Increased funding and resources for a public service campaign for all public buildings, including schools and universities, to advance awareness and embodiment of the Sandy Hook Promise program;
  • 6. Resources and public safety programs for increasing manpower, surveillance/intelligence on domestic terrorism including increased cybercrime monitoring, tracking of manifestos, white nationalist organizations and their members; and
  • 7. Criminal justice reforms as it relates to prosecution and sentencing of domestic terrorists and serial killers. This reform should ensure that punishment is commensurate with the crime by including capital punishment in sentencing discussions.

When we have had more mass shootings than days in the year, everything must be on the table for discussion. I am done with inaction. I am not waiting for another shooting before demanding that the NCGA leadership debate and calendar votes for House Bill 86 and Senate Bill 565. I am further writing Senator Burr and my opponent, Senator Tillis, to call for a Chamber vote on HR 8 and HR 1112.

We have to act. Children are dying and the tears of mothers are met with inaction and political gamesmanship by Thom Tillis, Mitch McConnell and the like. I will work to make this country safer and you will always know where I stand as your U.S. Senator.


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