Extremism and Gun Violence Prevention

We must get our democracy working again to pass reasonable reforms to protect our children, families, and communities from extremism and gun violence.

I come from a family of gun-owners and hunters, and I enjoy a good venison stew from time to time. I understand the importance of gun ownership for personal safety and for sport. And I believe that individuals across our district, state, and country who operate guns with care and safety should be allowed to exercise the right to do so.  

But I also believe that too many innocent lives are being lost in this country. Many of us have read the statistics, from mass shootings to domestic violence incidents to death by suicide. As a pastor, I’ve sat and talked first-hand with people impacted by gun violence of all kinds. We all know there are deep-seated complexities when it comes to this topic, and no easy answers.  Yet I believe we share the same values and goals – we want our communities to be safe. Our children must be safe in their schools. All of us should be able to go about our lives – to the store, movies, local festivals, and public gatherings – free from the fear that our basic security is at risk.

I also believe that – while solutions are not easy – there are many issues on which we can find common ground. I am committed to finding and voting for practical, reasonable, and multi-faceted solutions that have the support of West Michiganders.  

The solutions are not either-or – it’s not just about improved mental health services, and it’s not just about background checks or the use of high capacity magazines. It’s both – and more – including the need to strengthen the social fabric of our communities so all individuals have the opportunity to achieve a state of well-being and are not driven to act out in destructive ways.   

We also know that more groups today are advancing political stances through mass violence, whether they be white supremacist terrorists, anti-government militias, or other groups that use forms of domestic extremism. Addressing this problem must also be part of the broader solution.

In order to implement solutions, we need to fix our democracy. According to a 2015 study

by the Harvard Injury Control Center, about 40 percent of those who obtain firearms don’t have to go through a background check. We all know this doesn’t make sense. In fact, 97% of Americans  — including almost all Republicans and gun owners — support a policy such as universal background checks. 

When Congress ignores the will of the American people, something is wrong.  When special interests have so much power that they control policy for all Americans, something is wrong. 

We’ve seen longstanding inaction from our representatives in Congress to move forward on common-sense legislation. We can do better, with the right leadership.

My priorities:

  • Make sure only those who can ensure safety have access to guns. Make background checks universal and close the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to acquire and keep guns. This means that background checks must be required for all transfers of ownership of firearms outside of the immediate family. And I will help ensure that everyone has access to background checks at a reasonable cost by requiring Federal Firearms License holders to provide them for a small fee.

  • Place strict controls on high-capacity magazines, clips, and devices that allow a rifle to fire fully automatic or simulated automatic fire, such as bump stocks.

  • Empower law enforcement — including the FBI, state, and local authorities — with greater resources for tracking and preventing domestic terrorist attacks before they occur.

  • Advocate for social media and other online platforms to identify and limit the spread of hateful ideology.

  • Resume federal funding for gun violence research. Let’s let the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) do their job and study the problem of gun violence, including the mental health and behavioral indicators of individuals who perpetrated the violence.