Rep. Andy Kim held a roundtable on gun violence following a spate of mass shootings last month that left at least 51 dead in August on Wednesday.
The first-term congressman met with representatives of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots anti-gun violence group spawned in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, during which a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children under the age of eight.
Though New Jersey boasts some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation, Republicans in the federal government have thus far shown little appetite for similar measures.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far refused to bring gun control measures that passed through the House for a vote on the Senate floor, though he said Tuesday he would put gun control measures up for a vote if President Donald Trump supported them.
“I refuse to take cynicism that Sen. Mitch McConnell has taken that there’s not much that we can do. I refuse to give into that and accept this is just part of who we are as a nation,” Kim said. “That’s not true. We’re better than that, and we need to work together to be able to prove that now.”
In February, the House passed a bill requiring universal background checks for gun purchases 240-190, but that vote largely fell along party lines. Only eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
Wednesday’s roundtable included stories of women who lost family members to gun violence.
“I don’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can tell you what happened on Oct. 10, 2012, when I received a call from my mom who said that my son was shot, and I had to drive to Trenton from Chesterfield to go to Capital Health and wait until the police called me in and said I had to identify my child,” said Glenda Torres. “I could not touch him. Police said he was evidence. I had to stand back and say ‘that was my child.’”
Torres’s son was killed in a 2012 drive-by shooting in Trenton. The gunman was never apprehended.
Historically, guns have had middling success as an election issue, but groups like Moms Demand Action are looking to change that.
Through the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, the group is looking to provide financial and on-the-ground support to candidates supporting policies meant to blunt gun violence.
Everytown also provides training to family members of gun violence victims, like Torres, so that they may more effectively translate the stories of gun violence victims into votes for pro-gun control candidates.
“It can’t just be in words. It can’t just be amongst us here in this room in Willingboro. It has to be something that we move to the House chamber, the Senate chamber, to the White House, to the places where we can actually get this done,” Kim said. “And that is our responsibility: to be able to take those actions, so I will absolutely agree. We want to make sure we’re taking steps to keep our kids safe. Red flag laws are an area where there seems to be some momentum and some common ground on both sides of the aisle that we can be able to take forward.”
Red flag laws would allow family members of law enforcement officials to seek court orders to take guns away from individuals who may pose a threat to themselves or others.
“We can’t just say ‘look, we did those one or two things and then now we’re done,’ right?” Kim said. “And that’s what I worry about, that some of these steps are ones that this administration or Mitch McConnell or others will say ‘oh, we did this one thing. Let’s move on now.’”