By Phil Murphy
Like many New Jerseyans, I woke up to the news last Sunday about the domestic act of terrorism that left 49 innocent people dead and another 53 injured, many of whom remain in the hospital.
In the week since, many of us have read or watched news about the tragedy, the victims and their families, and those who performed selfless acts to save others.
A mother died saving her son. A Marine veteran working as a bouncer risked his life to open a backdoor, saving dozens. Strangers shielded others from bullets. A man bear-hugged a victim to stop the bleeding. A DJ pulled a woman to safety.
We’ve read texts from a son to his mother and saw how those texts suddenly stopped. We’ve watched a Snapchat video on television of a young girl celebrating life before gunfire ended it.
As a husband and father of four, I can’t imagine a worse nightmare. Unfortunately, shootings like this are becoming the reality for far too many families. Last year, more than 13,000 people were killed and more than 26,000 were injured from gun violence across the country.
These aren’t just numbers. They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandchildren and grandparents, and fathers and mothers.
This Father’s Day we must have a serious discussion about how we have failed to create a society that is safer and more prosperous than the America we inherited from the generation before us.
It used to be that leaders had the backs of Americans who want safe communities. Even President Ronald Reagan, who was an NRA member, understood that assault weapons are not sporting weapons or needed for the defense of the home.
So long as our laws allow people like the hate-filled, domestic abuser in Florida to simply walk into a gun shop and walk out with a personal arsenal, no questions asked, this will not be the last time we will grieve mass violence. This is the inevitable consequence of letting the NRA, rather than common sense, dictate our gun laws.
Since the federal ban on assault weapons was lifted in 2004, mass shootings have increased by more than 200 percent. As a result, elementary schools, night clubs, holiday parties, college campuses, and communities have turned into war zones.
Hospitals across the country now regularly hold mass shooting drills to prepare for what many now view is inevitable.
This isn’t the America I want for my children.
In New Jersey and many other states across the country, there is nothing to prevent a suspected terrorist on the no-fly list from purchasing a firearm. And in many places, it takes less time to obtain an assault rifle than it takes most families to buy groceries for Sunday dinner.
Just the other day, a Philadelphia Daily News reporter showed how an assault rifle can be purchased in less than seven minutes.
This Father’s Day, I ask that we reflect on last week’s shooting and the role each of us has in society to help make our country a safer place for our children to inherit — and that we act. As you spend time with family today, take a moment to talk about gun violence and what we can do together to create a more secure future.
Encourage your family to thank those who support gun control — and petition those who don’t. On Monday, call Governor Christie’s office. Write members of the state Legislature. Email the NRA. Tweet at members of Congress on Twitter and post on their Facebook pages.
Each of these things will take less than seven minutes.