A panicked call in the middle of the night. Desperate words texted on a small screen. Those are some of the haunting last communications 49 American families have left of their loved ones who were killed in the Orlando nightclub massacre on June 12, the worst mass killing in modern U.S. history.
Just as it had too many times before, America again held prayer vigils and observed moments of silence in tribute to the victims. Across the country, people raised their voices to ask what can be done to stop this sort of regular mass violence.
But words are not enough. We're long past the point of talking. Congress must take real action - now.
First, I'm calling for an assault-weapons ban like the one on the books during the Clinton era. It would prohibit the sale of killing machines like the AR-15-style rifle used by the Orlando killer.
And I'm again pushing to close the outrageous loophole in U.S. law that allows people on the "no fly" list to legally purchase guns. The legislation I've sponsored - the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Terrorists Act - would create a simple, four-word policy: "No Fly, No Buy."
In support of this idea, I and dozens of my colleagues in Congress and the Senate participated in a sit-in on the House floor Wednesday to force Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on this measure.
It would seem obvious enough to stop suspected terrorists from having access to guns. After all, it's just common sense. But common sense is in short supply in Congress these days. The NRA has an extraordinary and inexplicable stranglehold on some lawmakers that is prevented this legislation from coming to the floor of the House for a vote.
Like most, I'm enraged that the NRA holds so much power over lawmakers that they won't even allow a vote despite broad support from the public for limiting suspected terrorists' access to weapons. How many more killings have to happen before they're moved to take action? How high does the body count have to get?
These are reasonable, commonsense approaches to combating the dangers lurking among us. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and emerging threats subcommittee, I get classified briefings on threats to the United States and those who wish to harm us. The threats are real, and there are too many individuals insistent on hurting innocent Americans.
Some of them are on the nation's no-fly list, just as the Orlando killer was. And as with the Orlando killer, there's nothing stopping them from purchasing guns and using them to kill in large numbers. Terrorists know about our weak gun laws. Extremists are telling them to exploit those laws to commit acts of hate.
That's what this call to action is about, not Second Amendment rights. I support responsible, legal gun ownership. But dangerous people shouldn't have easy access to weapons of war and unleash their wrath on innocent people.
What about the rights of the victims? What happened to their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Our government was created to protect those rights. And I am more determined now than ever to do just that.
Orlando is our latest call to action. We have the power and the responsibility to change this. Doing nothing is not an option.