In November a Tucson father posted his little girlâ€™s Christmas list on Facebook. Among other things, 8-year-old Mackenzie Parker asked Santa to bring her a horse, a guitar and a â€œpaw print of Rudolph.â€
Then just two nights before Christmas when all that should have been on her mind was Santa and his reindeer, Mackenzie and her 5-year-old sister Haylee were shot to death by their father, who died later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Before shooting himself he reportedly made a threatening call to the girlsâ€™ mother. The couple was estranged and involved in a custody battle.
In my work as a domestic violence counselor Iâ€™ve heard many stories from women about a husband or a partner who threatened to kill the children in order to control the mother. We donâ€™t know all the details of this familyâ€™s tragedy but we do know that guns and domestic abusers are a deadly combination.
In this country an abused woman is five times more likely to be killed by her abuser if he has access to a gun and, on average, guns kill eight children every day.
A short time after this horrific incident in the Tucson foothills, we hear nothing more about it on the news. No one seems to care and I find myself wondering why. Has gun violence become the new norm? Is this what little boys and girls should expect at home, at school, at the movie theater or in the shopping mall? Have we reached the point where a typical childâ€™s Christmas list includes a bulletproof vest?
This week we marked the five-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting in Tucson where a disturbed young man with a gun killed six people and wounded 13 others at a â€œCongress On Your Cornerâ€ event hosted by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. One of the lives lost was 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green who was in line to speak to her Congresswoman.
We need a reality check. As parents, we tell our children to look both ways when crossing the street, not to take candy from strangers and not to play with matches. Who would have imagined weâ€™d have to tell them what to do when someone is pointing a gun at them?
This cannot become our norm. Children should know they are loved, they should play, get good grades at school, and dream of what they will be when they grow up. The terror of being a victim of gun violence should not be a normal part of a childâ€™s life.
I stand with the majority of Americans â€” Democrats, Republicans, and Independents â€” who support closing the gun show loophole that allows domestic abusers and stalkers to buy guns without going through a background check. This is not a partisan issue. In fact, a recent poll showed that 82 percent of Republicans are in favor of legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.
I also support preventing people on the no-fly list from buying guns. If itâ€™s a good idea to keep them from flying on commercial airlines, we shouldnâ€™t allow them to buy a gun.
The first responsibility of our leaders is the safety of its citizens, and Congress has an obligation to the people who elect them, not the gun lobby and their campaign contributions. Our children deserve to grow up without the threat of being shot, and Congress must have the backbone to do the right thing, not the politically expedient thing.