The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its monopoly on the “final word” on guns and the Second Amendment, coming to an end thanks to Rep. Robin Kelly’s emergence on the national stage as an articulate national spokesperson for “common sense” gun reform. The NRA has taken notice and don’t like what they see.
On Jan. 8, 2015, near the beginning of the 114th Congress, Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives known as H.R. 224. Simply stated, the bill would require the United States Surgeon General of the Public Health Service to submit to Congress an annual report on the effects of gun violence on public health. Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of H.R 224, and annually thereafter, the “U.S. Surgeon General of the Public Health Service shall submit to Congress a report on the effects on public health of gun violence in the United States during the relevant period, and the status of actions taken to address such effects.”
Simple stuff, right? Wrong, at least according to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), which is now on record as opposing H.R. 224. Did I write “opposing?” My error, I should have wrote “strongly opposes.”
Congresswoman Robin Kelly responded to the NRA attack piece, with a statement she released to this writer:
In the interest of staying above the fray and focusing on constructive discourse about gun safety, I’ve long ignored the NRA’s vicious, dishonest and irrational attacks on me and my efforts to reduce gun violence in America.But first and foremost, I am not anti-gun. I come from a family of policemen and recreational hunters and respect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. I’ve never been anti-gun. However, I am proudly and unabashedly pro-common sense gun reform that respects the Second Amendment while also respecting the right of every American to live free from the threat of gun violence. I believe we can strike this balance and that reasonable, rational and responsible gun owners agree.
I ask the NRA, why imbue the debate on gun reform with such venom and vitriol if you truly believe you’re on the side of right? An argument is only diminished when delivered with disrespect. And with this particular piece of legislation – the call for the U.S. Surgeon General to investigate the public health impact of gun violence – there is an opportunity to finally put one aspect of the gun debate to rest. If the NRA is so convinced that there are no public health effects of gun violence and that the very premise that American society suffers from a gun violence epidemic is false, then I say support my bill, which amounts to commissioning a study on the issue, and prove me wrong.
If the truth is truly what the NRA seeks, if they are not merely paying lip service to the concept of gun safety, then join me in investigating the true impact of gun violence in America and if, as I suspect, we discover that gun violence is a slow-motion plague afflicting our nation, I ask them to work with me to find solutions that save lives while preserving the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
That’s a call I’d like to see them issue to their members rather than riling them up to come after me based on lies, gross distortions of my position on gun reform and attacks on my character.
Because it’s not about me.
It’s about the 30,000 Americans who die each year from gun violence and about the thousands more who live in fear daily because their basic right to personal safety is threatened by gun violence in their communities. We owe it to them to elevate the debate and put forth a good faith effort to solve our nation’s gun violence problem. I’m all in and I ask the NRA, where are you?
Why all of a sudden is the NRA-ILA so concerned with a harmless piece of legislation introduced by a member of the minority party in the House of Representatives? It is because Rep. Robin Kelly is no ordinary member of the minority party in the House of Representatives.It was Rep. Robin Kelly that not only won a 2013 special election in the Democratic primary against a crowded field, defeating 11 candidates on Feb. 2013, Kelly also defeated the the NRA and made clear in the campaign she was running as much against the NRA as she was her many opponents.
The timing of the NRA-ILA posting coincides with a recent Roll Call piece in which Rep. Kelly expressed an interest in running for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate in Illinois in 2016. The NRA-ILA understand the stakes involved, should Rep. Kelly defeat Senator Mark Kirk. Winning back the “Barack Obama” seat would mean the Democrats would be one seat closer to regaining the majority in the U.S. Senate.
The readers of the Daily Kos will recall the 2013 special election victory was the result of heavy lifting from this progressive, grassroots community. Daily Kos founder and editor, Markos Moulitsas, started it all on Feb. 1, 2013, telling his readers “We need to tear the NRA out of Congress, not strengthen its influence.” Markos added, “You want real gun reform? Make the NRA radioactive.”
In addition, Markos wrote, “And if you’re in Chicago (and I know tens of thousands of you are), become a volunteer.”
The Daily Kos community responded with a big helping of thousands of individual donations and hundreds of volunteers, to not only elect Robin Kelly to Congress, but send a strong message to the NRA. It is clear from this NRA-ILA posting the message was heard. The NRA doesn’t like it one bit.
Unlike many elected officials, Rep. Kelly didn’t just run on an issue and then discard it like yesterday’s trash. She has become the leading spokesman in the House of Representatives for “common sense gun reform.”
In fact, Kelly has been tapped by her colleagues to serve as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust for the 114th Congress. The CBC Health Braintrust is the Congressional Black Caucus’ principal health care advisory task force. As Chair, Kelly will be responsible for advancing the Caucus’ health priorities, which include protecting health equity and reducing health disparities in all communities. Among other things, this year Kelly intends to address gun violence as a public health threat, access to oral healthcare as well as physical fitness and education in communities of color.
“I am honored to have been chosen to lead the CBC Health Braintrust at such a critical time, as we work toward the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and to increasing access to healthcare and improving health outcomes across the country,” Kelly said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Caucus and in Congress to put forth common sense health policy proposals that improve the health and well being of all Americans.”
Last year Rep. Kelly published the “Kelly Report: 2014 Gun Violence in America,” the first comprehensive study of gun violence by a member of Congress. The “Kelly Report” makes the stunning finding that “Approximately one million Americans have died from gunshot wounds in homicides, accidents, and suicides during the last three decades—more than the sum total of combat deaths in all the wars in U.S. history.”
The “Kelly Report” calls for gun violence to be called a public health issue. “Over the past 50 years, our society has made far less progress in understanding how to protect our citizens from gun violence (and violence more broadly) than we have learned about how to protect citizens from other serious threats to life and health.”
“Scientists, policymakers, and advocates are increasingly advised to use ‘the public health approach’ to address myriad social issues, from alcoholism to arthritis to vision care and war,” argues the “Kelly Report.”
This past July, Kelly introduced H.R. 5093, the Children’s Firearm Marketing Safety Act, as I told you at the time here. By opposing the bill, the NRA shows that it condones the owning and possessing of lethal weapons by children, and drawing no line in the sand in its “anything goes” policies toward firearms.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly is just warming up. If she takes the leap and runs for the U.S. Senate, she will do so with the “grassroots” at her back, ready to take on the NRA once again. During the 113th Congress, Kelly sponsored many “common sense” pieces of gun legislation, including H.R. 2464, which amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to remove the exclusion of pistols, revolvers, and other firearms from the definition of “consumer product” in order to permit the issuance of safety standards for such articles by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
You guessed it. The NRA doesn’t like that bill either.
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