I fervently believe in prayer. It is the first thing I do every morning and it is the last thing I do every night. I also deeply believe in the importance of words and expressing heartfelt thoughts of empathy and compassion. Yet, my constituents did not elect me to the Alabama House of Representatives just to pray and offer thoughts.
They entrusted me to take action.
They pleaded with me to do what lawmakers are supposed to do: propose and advocate for laws that address the most pressing issues facing our community and that improve the quality of life. More than any other issue, residents of all backgrounds and neighborhoods in District 74 asked me to do something about gun violence.
As someone who previously taught in a Montgomery public high school and still mentors many young people, I have tragically lost former students to gun violence. Instead of attending joyous occasions that young people should be celebrating, I have attended funerals and comforted those traumatized by losing their peers and friends to gun violence.
I have listened to the immeasurable pain of family members devastated from losing a loved one from gun violence. I have heard countless cries of community members who worry that a stray bullet will penetrate the windows of their homes and take an innocent life. I have offered numerous thoughts and prayers.
But that is not enough.
My constituents are smart. They know that laws alone cannot stop every act of bloodshed. They know that doing right starts at home and starts with a strong family foundation and value system. But they also know that laws serve a vital purpose: they can save lives.
As lawmakers, we have a moral duty to propose legislation that addresses the issues most impacting residents in our state. Residents of every background and in every part of the state want to reduce gun violence and live in safe neighborhoods. One meaningful way that we can achieve that is by banning devices that turn lawful firearms into automatic, rapid-firing weapons of war.
For example, semi-automatic handguns that fire one bullet for every pull of the trigger are being modified with small, easily made devices often referred to as “Glock switches” or “trigger activators” that allow the shooter to hold the trigger down and continually spray bullets.
Those using these modified weapons of war often do not have proper firearm training and have little concern for the value of human life. These devices have proliferated in recent years and have flooded our communities. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the number of “Glock switches” seized in Alabama has increased by an astonishing 1,200 percent annually.
Law enforcement officers throughout Alabama are finding guns with these devices used in crimes but there is no state law for prosecutors to enforce and hold those accountable for wreaking havoc and taking lives with these weapons. That is why I introduced last session — and will introduce again — a bill that would make it illegal to sell or possess any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to convert a firearm into a machine gun.
Currently, trigger activators are only illegal under federal law, which means only federal prosecutors can charge individuals for selling or possessing these devices.
We can make Alabama safer and save lives by giving our state district attorneys the power to charge under state law. Such a law is reasonable, upholds constitutional rights, and would help law enforcement and save lives. That is why I introduced it last session and will introduce it again. The bill would make it illegal to sell or possess any part, or combination of parts, designed or intended to convert a firearm into a machine gun.
A similar bill was introduced by a Republican colleague of mine – the only difference between our bills is that mine mirrored federal law to ensure that Alabama’s law is constitutional and enforceable.
The fact that there is bipartisan support for this bill speaks volumes. It shows that this is not a Democrat or Republican issue, but a human issue. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues and leadership to advance this life-saving legislation.
The urgency to pass this bill took on even more personal significance when I was recently approached after a neighborhood meeting in my district by a mother who lost her son to gun violence. Witnesses say that the gun was illegally altered with a “Glock switch” and make it that much easier to kill her son.
I cannot even begin to comprehend the depth of her grief as her son’s life was senselessly taken.
She knows that a law cannot bring back her son or save every life. But she is committed to achieving some sense of justice and saving some lives by banning trigger activators.
This bill will be among several that I plan to reintroduce to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in Alabama. In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control ranked Alabama 5th worst in the nation for its firearm death rate. For a state that claims to be “pro-life” that is a jarring and unacceptable statistic. In 2023, the CDC also released data which showed that gun violence was the leading cause of death for our children in Alabama.
I recognize that no one law or thousand laws can stop every act of violence. And it takes a village of families, clergy, and community members all doing their part to raise our children right and instill moral values and respect for life.
But it is not mutually exclusive: we can work towards individual responsibility while also doing our moral duty as lawmakers to make a difference.
In addition to the trigger activator ban, I will also introduce several common-sense bills that have been proven to save lives without infringing on the rights of responsible gun owners.
To be clear, this isn’t about taking away guns from responsible, law-abiding gun owners or an attack on the Second Amendment. We can uphold the right to bear arms while also saving lives.
Like all constitutional rights – voting rights, free speech, etc. – there are, and must be, reasonable rules governing those freedoms. This is about preventing someone from being able to fire hundreds of rounds into a school classroom, neighborhood, home, place of worship or birthday party in just a matter of seconds.
Let’s keep praying and let’s keep being thoughtful. But those thoughts and prayers must lead to action. I pray that in the Alabama Legislature we follow the instructions of Deuteronomy to “choose life, so that you and your children may live.”