That time you contact your elected officials about gun violence…      

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Two more people are dead because someone was able to get a gun and shoot them.  As my grief and anger swirled in my stomach and stung my eyes, I decided to exercise the right to contact my state and Congressional legislators, begging them to do something.  The following is the letter I sent to Congresswoman Comstock, Senators Warner and Kaine, Delegate Tim Hugo, and State Senator Chap Petersen.

Dear Representative Comstock,

I am compelled to write to you with regard to today’s tragedy in Roanoke and the gun violence that is tolerated in our country. I am saddened and horrified by what happened to Alison Parker, Adam Ward, and Vicki Gardner this morning. As a graduate of Virginia Tech, I am especially mourning the loss of yet another fellow Hokie because of gun violence. As a mother of two young girls, I am terrified by how easy it is for these acts of violence to take place. As a Virginian who votes, I am outraged and embarrassed by how easy it is for people with bad intentions to obtain guns, and that so little is being done to prevent future tragedies like Roanoke, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Aurora, Colorado. How can we call our Commonwealth, and indeed our nation, great if we are to continue dismissing an innocent’s right to live in favor of someone’s desire to own a gun? I wish I could say, along with the other emotions I am experiencing today, that shock is one of them. These tragedies have become so commonplace that they are now interwoven with what it means to live in the United States. 

Representative Comstock, I urge you to do what is right for Virginia and our country by introducing and/or supporting legislation which would make it substantially more difficult, or even illegal, to buy certain types of guns, including handguns. My hope is that our Congress will eschew influence from the NRA and not buy into the lie that easy access to guns makes us a safer society. I ask that you continue to serve your constituency and the people of these United States in this way.

I chose the option to receive a response, not entirely expecting to actually receive any; I certainly didn’t anticipate receiving a response the same day.  But within a few hours, I had a response from Representative Comstock, or her office anyway.  It was obvious that it was nothing more than a form letter, meant to talk about how “awesome” she is on Second Amendment issues and that she won’t do a damn thing.

Side note: I found it very interesting that the Democratic Senators had “gun violence” as an option for the subject of my email, while the Republican respresentative had “Second Amendment issues” instead.

As I finished my representative’s response, the only reaction I had is best summed up by this GIF.

giphy

GIF via Giphy Thanks to Ellie for finding it for me!

Disrespectful?  Maybe.  But people are dead.  Such a cold-hearted, obviously bullshit politi-speak response isn’t worthy of respect.  (You got that, intern who probably sent the responding email?)

Here is the response I received from Congresswoman Comstock, with my comments in bold, (all emphasis mine.)

Dear Ms. Shore,

Thank you for contacting me about Second Amendment issues.  I appreciate hearing from you and always welcome you to share your comments and concerns with me.
Commence Liz Lemon level of eye-rolling.  Yes, technically it is a Second Amendment issue, (and that was the only option in the predetermined subject list) but I wrote to you because people have died.  People continue to die because of the ease of access to deadly weapons.  But, I’m sorry; you were saying?

I have a record of strengthening both enforcement and mental health provisions of law to protect our citizens from gun violence. As a former senior Justice Department official, I worked closely with law enforcement on the local, state, and federal levels on these matters and others and I will continue to build on those relationships in Congress.
That’s just peachy, so long as whoever is attempting to acquire a gun has been committed or adjudicated incompetent, (Code of Virginia 18.2-308.1:2; federal law 18 U.S.C. 922(d).) As we witnessed in 2007 at Virginia Tech, and countless times thereafter, there are those with significant mental health problems who are not adjudicated to be incompetent and are able to legally purchase guns and ammunition.  Enforcement is fantastic, although I’d rather have prevention.  Enforcement doesn’t bring back your murdered children and loved ones.  It’s doesn’t end the waking nightmares that survivors must relive every day.
The senior Justice Department position to which Rep. Comstock refers is the Director of Public Affairs.  You were the public face of the Justice Department from 2002-2003.  Whoopdie freakin’ doo.  Can we talk about how you were a key player in developing strategy to defend former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was a major proponent of gun rights, among other things?  No?  How about taking part in the defense teams for Scooter Libby and personification of a shudder, Tom Delay?  (Which I know has nothing to do with gun violence; I just wanted to put that out there, as she seemed eager to talk about her professional relationships.) 
Rep. Comstock has also received an A rating from the National Rifle Association because of the votes she cast as Virginia General Assembly delegate that weakened Virginia gun laws.  She has also received over $44,000 in contributions from the NRA since her bid for the U.S. Congressional seat she now holds.  

I understand background check systems are important tools to keep firearms out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill. Virginia has been a leader with its mental health database and ensuring its mental health records are included in the national database. As Virginia continues to update its background check system, we see increases in the number of convicted felons and those with mental health conditions being denied from purchasing a firearm.
“When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.”
I think the mental health database is fantastic, but it’s clear that mental illness and a criminal history is only a small part of the picture.  I don’t want to see an increase in convicted felons; I’d like to see the crimes prevented in the first place.  

Under current law, background checks are required for firearm sales conducted through federally licensed firearms dealers, which are processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It is important that states share appropriate, lawful information with the federal background check system in order to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who clearly pose a danger to themselves or others. The NICS Improvement Amendments Act (P.L. 110-180) provided federal resources to encourage states to keep their NICS-related records updated to maximize public safety. Since 2009, this program has received over $63 million.
Instant background checks are like instant coffee: only good in baked goods.  No, wait.  Gross and of little use.  Yes, that’s it.  It’s pretty clear that an instant background check isn’t enough to curb the high number of gun-related deaths in this country.

I share your desire that the NICS database be up-to-date so that background checks can be completed quickly and effectively. I am committed to protecting policies that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill while preserving the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. I am not a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over this type of legislation, but should legislation come to the floor on these matters I will be sure to keep your views and concerns in mind.
I don’t recall expressing any desire of the sort.  Did you all read that in my email?  I mean, I’m guess it’s possible I blacked out and expressed a sentiment completely opposite to how I actually feel.  Oh, wait!  Was it Opposite Day, and I forgot about it again?  Hahaha!  That explains why, when I said, “substantially more difficult,” you understood me to say, “Get people their goddamn guns, posthaste!”
I’m pretty sure that the bit about not being on the Judiciary Committee and keeping my views in mind is meant to be read with all the sincerity and gentility of a backstabbing southern belle.

Image via ABC

Thank you again for contacting me. Please keep in touch on issues of concern to you. I may also be contacted at my Sterling office at 703-404-6903, or my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-5136. By visiting comstock.house.gov, you can sign up to receive my email newsletters and follow my efforts to serve you. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for real-time updates on my activities in Congress and in the District. If I may ever be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I’ve just written to you and expressed how you could serve me, your constituent, and you gave me the finger in letter form.  Why on earth would I contact you again for anything?  And you can bet that, if you’re not going to do what’s right for the safety and well-being of your constituents and country, I will do everything within my power to make sure that our district elects someone in 2016 who will.

I will update the blog with responses I receive from any other legislators. Rest assured, if I receive similar responses from them, Democrat or Republican, they too shall be marked with the GIF Seal of Disapproval.

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