Excited and energized state legislators bounced from booth to booth, throughout a bustling exhibit hall at the Minneapolis Convention Center. These state leaders had descended upon the Twin Cities, last week, for the annual National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Summit. The Brady Campaign was there to greet them and their staff, to arm them with valuable information, studies and research, model bill language, and strategy advice and counsel to address gun violence in their states.
Legislators from all over – west of the Rocky Mountains and all the way to the Eastern Seaboard – heard about our drive to "Finish the Job" in more states by expanding background checks to all gun sales. We also educated them about the “bad apple” gun dealers in their districts and states that supply many of the crime guns in major cities that contribute to violence.
The state legislators who represent people in communities most affected by “bad apple” gun dealers were surprised to learn that 1% of gun dealers supply nearly 60% of all the crime guns, many of which are recovered in crimes in those communities. Some legislators were also surprised to learn that some of the “bad apple” dealers are operating in their own district!
The Brady Campaign has had a vocal presence at the summit for more than 20 consecutive years continuing our long-standing tradition of supporting state legislators nationwide. We were lucky this year to be joined by our local partners in the host city, our Northland, MN Chapter and Protect Minnesota.
A 13-year veteran of this summit, I was inspired most by the optimism, passion and strong dedication the legislators showed for doing something to reduce gun violence in their states. This enthusiasm has continued to build since 2013 when 21 states passed sensible gun legislation, eight states passing major gun reforms, including four states passing new laws to expand Brady background checks to all gun sales.
This progress is a direct result of more Americans taking action on the gun violence prevention issue and the tangible and real increase in activism in many states, especially in areas with new Brady and Million Mom March chapters. This sense of momentum was certainly reflected in our conversations with the legislators who are fired up to work toward solutions.
You know, the media likes to tell the narrative that our window for action closed after the Senate failed to pass the “Manchin/Toomey” background check amendment in April 2013. But nothing could be further from the truth and we saw strong evidence of that from the people who visited our booth in Minneapolis. State legislators are becoming more and more outspoken and confident on our issue the more their constituents speak out about real solutions to gun violence. There is no doubt that we will continue to see progress.
We'll be in Seattle for the 2015 NCSL summit and we know, before then, there will be more state victories and even more momentum for change at the federal level. Until then, take action with us and help us continue our push to get Congress to Finish the Job!