by Vangie Williams
We now have an answer: 171,478.
That’s how many people have died as a result of gun violence since Congressman Rob Wittman took office in 2007 until he announced earlier this week that he’s finally changing his position on background checks. In his statement, he said we need to “put a stop to these mass shootings while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.” I do not fault Rob Wittman for wanting to strengthen background checks in this country. I do, however, have a question for him.
Why did 171,478 people have to die before Rob Wittman finally changed his mind?
Rob Wittman claims that the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have caused him to change his mind on this literal life and death issue. However, these tragic shootings are far too common in this country, as we are all too well aware. Since December 11th, 2007, the day that Rob Wittman was first elected to Congress, there have been 33 mass shootings and over 100,000 instances of gun violence in our country.
That means 171,447 people had to die before the El Paso and Dayton massacres before Rob Wittman finally changed his mind on background checks. Those people died while Rob Wittman was fighting against background checks that might have kept the gun out of the hands of their murderer.
While I applaud his apparent change of heart, I am dubious about Rob Wittman’s sincerity and commitment to his new position in favor of tougher background checks. First, Rob is very proud of his “A” rating with the NRA and he certainly enjoys the PAC checks that come along with it. It’s hard for me to imagine that he’s brave enough to do anything to jeopardize his relationship with the NRA. Second, Rob Wittman has an extensive history of voting against background checks and as my grandmother always said, “a leopard never changes its spots.” In fact, as recently as six months ago, Rob Wittman voted against legislation to enhance background checks (H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112).
Over the past decade, constituents from every corner of the 1st District have urged Rob Wittman to support common sense gun reforms. Their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Now, after the deaths of 171,478 people, Rob Wittman sees the political writing on the wall and is now flip-flopping out of political convenience, if not survival.
That’s not leadership. In fact, it’s reprehensible. He’s saying he’s going to do the right thing for the wrong reason. And what’s the human cost of his lack of leadership? 171,478 lives lost that might have been saved. For them it’s too little, too late.
I’m running for Congress because the current congressman in the 1st District has done far too little and is far too late on the issue of gun violence. It won’t take me a decade to realize that stronger background checks that keep guns out of the hands of bad people are a good thing. It won’t take me a decade to realize that we can’t wait around as mass shootings become more rampant. It won’t take me a decade to take action to help the 1st District once I’m elected to Congress.
I’m ready to serve and lead when I’m elected in 2020.