Response from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to my email addressing my concerns about gun control and infringements upon 2nd Amendment rights:
February 15, 2013
Dear Mr. Phillips:
Thank you for contacting me about the federal response to gun violence in this country. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
There is a proud tradition of gun ownership in Vermont, which I celebrate and strongly support. Thousands of Vermont families enjoy hunting, target shooting and other gun-related activities. Well over 99 percent of them are law-abiding citizens who are extremely careful with their weapons. Their rights must be protected as we proceed with this national debate.
On the other hand, very few deny that we must do everything we can to end the horror of mass killings that we have seen at Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado, Blacksburg, Virginia, Tucson, Arizona and in other American communities.
It has long been my position from before I was elected to Congress in 1990 that gun regulation is largely a local issue best decided by the states, but that there are times when it does become a federal issue and Congress must act. One of the issues that concerns me is that, because of inadequate background checks, there are now too many people who own guns who should not have them – including felons, and people with severe mental illness. I also worry about the lack of effective investigative tools and sanctions for “straw purchases,” where people legally able to buy guns act as a front purchaser for criminals.
In my view, the debate over mass killings should not be only about guns. In my view, Congress must consider a comprehensive approach which also includes a serious discussion about the need for greatly expanded mental health services and ending gratuitous violence in the media. It is imperative that Americans who need mental health services be able to access them in a timely manner. That is not the case today. Several hearings that I recently attended made it very clear that throughout our country there are thousands of Americans who harbor suicidal/homicidal thoughts – and are unable to find treatment at a cost they can afford. That must change.
Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Feel free to contact me again in the future about this or any other subject of interest to you, or for up-to-date information on what my office is working on please visit http://www.sanders.senate.gov. While there, I invite you to sign up for my e-newsletter, the Bernie Buzz, at http://sanders.senate.gov/buzz/. Please be aware that due to security screening procedures, postal mail to my office experiences delays that will lengthen the time it takes me to get back to you. The fastest way to contact my office is by calling 1-800-339-9834.
United States Senator