The National Rifle Association has 17 fewer friends in Congress as it holds its national convention this week, thanks to the power of Parkland.
For years, America was caught in a horrible déjà vu: a mass shooting, shock, thoughts and prayers, a moment of silence, anger, accusations, and inaction. But after hope died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for 17 people, hope also was reborn there in a uniquely American way, thanks to the courage and strength of children who survived.
They picked themselves up from unimaginable grief and took a stand. They knew they would face ridicule and hate, but they did the right thing anyway. They spoke up. They organized. They marched.
Soon they were joined by students across America, and by groups like Moms Demand Action, Brady, and Giffords — a convergence of organizations born of different tragedies.
Together they went from the town halls to the town squares to the ballot box, and helped unseat those 17 NRA-backed House incumbents in November. In February, a new House passed the most significant gun safety bills in a generation.
They weren’t afraid. Neither am I. And you shouldn’t be either.
The House majority they helped give us comes with great expectations. They will no longer accept negotiating down: a loss on background checks after the Sandy Hook school massacre, a loss on “no fly, no buy” after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, a flimsy administrative fix on bump stocks after the Las Vegas concert massacre.
No, this rising generation believes the right to learn, to dance at a nightclub, to laugh at a theater, or to pray at your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple without fear of death is greater than any other right in the Constitution. They demand that we go big in the problems we tackle, be bold with the solutions we offer, and do good in how we govern to save American lives.
No one should buy a gun without a background check — we need the same rules for all sales in all states, because no state is safe if a neighbor’s laws are lax. Shame on Senate Republican leaders for cravenly refusing to heed Americans’ overwhelming will on this.
I’m the only candidate for president calling for a ban on and buy-back of military-style assault weapons to remove them from our communities immediately. This idea isn’t new: Democracies like Australia and New Zealand did it after their tragedies and are better for it.
We must do more to combat gang violence, by providing education and alternatives to gang membership as well as by adopting community-based law enforcement initiatives.
We need significant mental health reforms. Those who need care must get it before they spiral out of control and do harm to themselves or others; those who show violent tendencies must not be able to buy or keep guns. And those touched by tragedy must have whatever help they need as they walk the hard path back into their lives.
We can do all this, because we’ve cracked the code. For decades, a vocal, bullying, tweeting minority leading the NRA has insisted this is a divisive issue. It really isn’t.
Those loud few will accept more mass shootings in exchange for unrestricted weaponry. They’re funded by gun and ammunition makers who care only about their bottom line. They have ties to and took money from Kremlin-cozy Russian sources, an epic hypocrisy: a group so desperate to hold onto dangerous guns that it takes help from a nation that has almost no gun rights at all.
The NRA deals in threats, propaganda, anger and fear to cling to its now-waning power. Like others who’ve spoken up, I’ve received a torrent of profane messages since proposing the assault weapons ban and buyback, including more than 100 threats. The goal is to scare us into inaction, but we won’t be deterred.
I visited 26 states last year to hear from countless Americans; I hosted a group of veterans from my district last month for a fun shoot at a local range. We know that you can keep your hunting and target rifles, handguns, and shotguns while we take the most dangerous weapons out of the most dangerous hands.
We honor the First Amendment, but we can’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater. We honor the Second Amendment, but we can’t own tanks or rocket-propelled grenades. In truth, the greatest threat to the Second Amendment is doing nothing and letting this murderous insanity continue.
And while I’m happy to see other presidential candidates discuss gun policy, the Parkland students and survivors of countless other shootings deserve a president who makes this the top priority.
The students taught us to March for Our Lives. Now we resolve to go big, be bold, and do good so that all of us can live in safe communities, free from gun violence.
Eric Swalwell is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and fourth-term Congressman from California. Follow him on Twitter at @EricSwalwell.
You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: We're standing up to the gun lobby and the NRA is losing power: Eric Swalwell