Democrats ratify gun violence as a health epidemic in party platform

With Hillary Clinton expected to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination Tuesday, the issue of gun violence prevention will once again be pushed to the fore.

Day two of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will include speeches from Bill Clinton and “Mothers of the Movement,” a group of women whose children were taken by gun violence and police brutality.

They include the mothers of Eric Garner, who was put in a chokehold and killed by a New York City officer; Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed during an altercation with George Zimmerman in Florida, Dontré Hamilton, who was fatally shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer; Jordan Davis, a Florida teen who was shot dead after a dispute over loud music; Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose officer-involved fatal killing sparked riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and nationwide; 15-year-old Chicago resident Hadiya Pendleton, whose senseless shooting death prompted President Barack Obama to sanction National Gun Violence Awareness Day in her honor and Sandra Bland, a college student who died in Texas police custody after a routine traffic stop.

Expected to speak Wednesday is Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and founder of Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control group that first sought federal controls over states’ background checks. The initiative failed, so the organization took its appeal to the people, putting on state ballots initiatives seeking to close loopholes that allow some checkless purchases at gun shows and online and prevent domestic abusers from being able to buy guns.   

In its party platform – released Thursday after being approved early this month by the Democratic Platform Committee in Orlando, Florida – Democrats list gun violence as a primary health and safety concern, next to the epidemic of substance abuse.

“While responsible gun ownership is part of the fabric of many communities, too many families in America have suffered from gun violence,” the Democrats’ document read. “We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.”

The party said it would build on the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, seek to expand background checks to close loopholes and repeal the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers and sellers from some liability lawsuits where intent and negligence cannot be proven in cases where those products are later used in the commission of a crime.           

The Democratic Party will also seek to ban large-capacity magazines and what they call “weapons of war” or “assault weapons” – usually meaning semi-automatic rifles modeled to look like the military’s fully-automatic ones.

Also on the Democrats’ agenda is the providing of more resources for the Centers for Disease Control, which has been largely defunded through bill riders in Congress for some 20 years, save for a 2013 study, which has been heralded by the gun community as a win for the Second Amendment.

That’s important because the gun rights crowd sees the health crisis classification of gun violence as a means of regulation.

There’s also been talk of requiring doctors to inquire about whether their patients have guns in their home as a way to combat suicides, which make up two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S. Many gun owners see that stepping stone as a paver on the pathway to mass confiscation.