On July 1, 1993, a deranged gunman entered the law offices of Pettit & Martin in San Francisco with a battery of assault weapons and started firing. Within moments, eight people were killed and six more were injured.
The shooting at 101 California was a national tragedy, and for many of us who lived in the Bay Area, a very personal one. My son lost one of his best friends in the shooting. I have stayed in touch with this young man's widow and I know that the incredible pain and loss never goes away.
After this senseless shooting, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban in 1994. It was part of a long tradition of our country responding to tragedies by taking common-sense action at the federal level to protect our families. After the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, we passed the Brady bill that created a system of instant background checks for gun sales. After the killings of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., we passed sensible regulations on the sale of firearms nationwide, including requiring gun dealers and manufacturers to be licensed.
As I watched the coverage of the horrific shooting in Colorado this week, I was reminded of how many similar tragedies our country has endured.
Six years after the 101 California tragedy, two teenagers walked into Columbine High School and killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded 20 others before killing themselves.
And just last year, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was the target of a murderous rampage that claimed the lives of six and injured Giffords and a dozen others.
After each of these tragedies, there was an effort to pass sensible federal gun safety legislation. But with the exception of the Virginia Tech incident, which led to some improvements in the instant background check system, we have failed to pass the broader protections we need to help keep our families safe.
The protections I am talking about are in no way a threat to law-abiding citizens who want access to firearms for hunting, collecting or protecting their individual families. The legislation I am focused on is about protecting our communities. We cannot prevent every attack by those who wish us harm but we can take some common-sense steps.
First, we should renew the assault weapons ban authored by my colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein. It expired in 2004, allowing those with murderous intentions access to military-style weapons. We could take two important steps by passing legislation by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., to ban large-capacity ammunition clips -- which were used in the Arizona and Colorado shootings -- and to require that gun buyers at gun shows be subjected to the same background checks required for purchases at gun shops.
After last year's shooting in Arizona, I introduced the Common-Sense Concealed Firearms Act, which would require all states that allow residents to carry concealed weapons to have minimum standards for granting permits. Modeled after California's law, it would ensure that permits are only issued after consulting local law enforcement.
We cannot allow nearly 100,000 people to be shot in America each year, with 31,000 dying. That's 87 people every day.
What we need is the political will among Democrats, Republicans and independents to act.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote this for this newspaper.