The safety of our children and communities

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Washington, D.C. is broken. Our representatives choose time and again to bend to the interests of lobbyists and corporate donors at our expense.

I have spent my entire career as a consumer protection advocate, fighting for people who have been bullied and harmed by big banks and powerful corporations. I am running for U.S. House of Representatives to fight for all Montanans the same way that I have fought for my clients.

Shortly after I announced my campaign, 58 innocent concert-goers were murdered in Las Vegas. Hundreds were injured. A few weeks ago in Polson, at one of the many town halls that we’ve held, a grandmother asked me, “What are you going to do to protect my grandchildren from gun violence?” I offered thoughts and prayers, but nothing else.

My wife Meagen and I have four kids. Every morning, I walk my two youngest children to the public elementary school across the street from our home. And after I drop them off, like every parent, I worry for their safety. I can only imagine the heartache felt by parents in South Florida yesterday when their children did not come home.

Today, I apologize to that grandmother in Polson for not giving her a more straight forward answer.

Please understand. As a gun owner, I believe in the Second Amendment. I cherish my Constitutional right to legally possess firearms. Like all gun owners, I know that with rights come responsibilities.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. I do know this: Many of our elected officials in Washington, D.C. are bought and paid for by the powerful corporate gun lobbyists who bankroll their campaigns. Those that are not, often feel paralyzed for fear of offending them. I have rejected corporate PAC and corporate lobbyist money. This includes the gun industry.

Importantly, we need Federal support and funding for mental health centers and services throughout Montana and throughout our country. Resources to support effective violence prevention strategies, such as community policing, probation and parole officers and access to high-quality, affordable healthcare services are essential. Our law enforcement officials and prosecutors need the funding and support to implement the laws and programs that can and should work.

While protecting the second amendment, we must implement common sense: Close the gun show loophole. Ban bump stocks. Expand the existing prohibition against domestic abusers possessing firearms to everyone who is convicted of a violent crime.

Powerful interests have put a stranglehold on our ability protect our children and the most vulnerable people in our society. Today and every day, I will fight for people, not corporations or lobbyists.

John Keenan of Billings is running for U.S. Congress.

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