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Demonstrators hold protest signs during the March for our Lives protest in Madison, Wisconsin, Saturday, March 24, 2018.

Today I do not offer thoughts and prayers, as condolences are not enough. We lost over 53 lives to mass shootings in the month of August alone. We need action.

It’s not about mental health. It’s not about violent video games. It’s guns.

The government uses NRA talking points to hide behind the Second Amendment to protect guns over people. Other countries have mental illness. Other countries have video games. Other countries do not have this level of gun violence. The only difference is guns.

America is the only country in the world with this level of gun violence. America does not have higher levels of crime, but our crime is more deadly. This lethality in crime is linked to gun ownership. Prevalence in gun ownership is associated with higher rates of gun death. The same is true among countries across the globe. There are 120.5 guns per 100 citizens in this country. It should come as no surprise that, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, gun violence is the third leading cause of death for Wisconsinites aged 10-44 years old. In this age group, guns are more lethal than heart disease, and nearly as lethal as motor vehicle collisions and cancer. It’s simple — the more guns, the more gun deaths.

A strong majority of Americans support sensible legislation aimed at reducing deaths and injuries from gun. So, what can be done? We can begin by closing the loopholes on background checks, implementing “Red Flag” laws and restricting the purchase of high-capacity assault weapons.

In February of this year, the House of Representatives passed two bills for sensible gun control focused on background checks: H.R. 8: Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and H.R. 1112: Bipartisan Background Checks Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring them to the Senate floor. Under current law, half of Americans live in states where a convicted felon or domestic abuser can purchase a gun from an unlicensed seller they met at a gun show or online and avoid a background check. Background checks work.

In fact, members of both parties have voiced their support for “Red Flag” laws which would allow families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from individuals when there's clear evidence they pose a threat to themselves or others. “Red Flag” laws work.

In 1994, Congress passed the bipartisan Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which banned the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The bill was not renewed when it expired in 2004. In 30 seconds, the Dayton gunman fired 41 shots and killed 9 people. We have said “never again” too many times.

Over 50 lives were lost in the month of August, and lives will continue to be lost if nothing changes. But we have the power to end this cycle. If you have ever said that something must be done about gun violence in America, I implore you to call Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin to demand action.

We need background checks and a red-flag law that will put an end to this cycle. I mean it. Stop reading and call your senators now now. Dial (414)-276-7282 to contact Johnson in his Milwaukee office and (608)-264-5338 to contact Baldwin in her Madison office. Texan legislators responded to its second mass shooting in less than one month by loosening firearm restrictions. Next week, Congress returns to session in D.C. The choice is yours — take a stand or let the cycle continue.

On Aug. 31, seven people were killed and and 22 injured in Odessa, Texas. On Aug. 4, nine people were killed and 27 injured in Dayton, Ohio. On Aug. 3, 22 people were killed and 26 injured in El Paso, Texas. On July 28, three people were killed and 12 injured in Gilroy, California. On July 28, four were killed and two injured in Chippewa Falls.

It’s been seven years since Oak Creek endured the Sikh Temple shooting. Nearly seven years since the Sandy Hook shooting. Three years since the Charleston church shooting. Two years since the Orlando nightclub shooting. More than a year since March for our Lives and the #NeverAgain movement. I don’t want thoughts and prayers. I want people protesting in the streets, outraged with the cycle our leadership is permissive to. I want phone calls to state and federal legislators. I demand change.

Zachary Dunton is a medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

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