The United States has experienced tragedies caused by individuals who used a firearm, several of which have been declared acts of terrorism. In response to these events, some lawmakers have used the terrible loss of life to promote tighter gun control laws, though these attempts have not gained traction in Congress because of the limitations the proposals would place on the Second Amendment rights of Americans.
A majority of the shooting tragedies this nation has endured share a common element that the assailant was mentally ill and behavioral red flags were either ignored or not acted upon until it was too late. All Second Amendment supporters will agree that firearms do not belong in the hands of violent criminals or the seriously mentally disturbed. However, instead of using tragedies to justify limiting access to firearms for all Americans, lawmakers should use them as motivation to reform the way we recognize and care for the mentally ill, in addition to protecting our citizens from radicalized terrorists.
Gun ownership is built into the fabric of our nation. Nearly a third of American adults own a firearm, and Alaska has the highest rate of gun ownership with 62% of adults saying they own a gun. All Alaska residents are eligible to subsistence hunt on state lands, and many Alaskans rely on gun ownership to feed their families and communities through the practice. Subsistence hunting occurs year round and is critical to rural Alaskans who rely on it for nutrition and stability. It is also central to the customs and traditions of many communities.
Federal law has regulated the sale and possession of firearms for decades. Several high-profile incidents of gun violence have prompted proposals to modify this framework, including by reinstituting the assault weapons ban; imposing universal background checks; and broadening restrictions on gun possession by foreign nationals, suspected terrorists, and others. Firearms restrictions, however, must comport with the requirements of the Second Amendment, which the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller upheld as protecting an individual right to keep and bear arms. I am a proud supporter of the Second Amendment, and will continue to fight in Congress to ensure that all Americans’ Constitutional rights are protected.