National Security Leaders Sign Open Letter on Gun Violence

OPEN LETTER TO THE WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP

We write as national security leaders – including former homeland security, law enforcement, military, and intelligence officials, among others with decades of national security experience –, to express our deep concern over the senseless gun violence afflicting our country and to convey our strong conviction that meaningful, responsible gun safety is a matter of national security. We are inspired by the powerful activism of citizens across the country, especially young people who wish to be secure in their own schools and communities. It is long past time to view the epidemic of gun violence and easy access to weapons of war in the United States as a threat to our homeland, and we must not stand idly by.

In three mass shootings in less than six months – at a concert, in a church, and in a high school – more than 100 people have been killed and nearly 900 people have been wounded. These attacks represent a small percentage of the daily gun violence in our communities. In the United States, individuals are more than 100 times more likely to die by gun violence and nearly three times more likely to die in a mass shooting than at the hands of a foreign-born terrorist, and multiple studies have found an increase in both the frequency and lethality of such mass shootings.

As national security professionals, we are gravely concerned about ongoing threats to this country from state adversaries, cybercriminals, and violent extremists, among others, but we cannot overlook the sober reality of our fellow citizens dying by the dozens every week at home. Members of our community have overseen our troops, confronted questions of lethal force in the White House Situation Room, and worked to secure our communities from gangs and terrorist organizations. We know there is a place for weapons of war in the hands of trained professionals — not in the faces of our children. The reality is that existing threats, including the danger from foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS, gangs such as MS-13, and domestic extremists, are made far more deadly with ready-access to dangerous weapons. And terrorist groups have taken notice of this fertile environment. ISIS’ online publication last year told its recruits the acquisition of firearms in the United States, to include AR-15 rifles, was a “very easy matter,” while al-Qaeda has encouraged its followers to exploit America’s so-called “gun show loophole." 

For generations, the United States has drawn strength from serving as a beacon of hope and an example of democratic governance for the world. When our leaders cannot pass commonsense laws—including to ban assault weapons, mandate background checks and waiting periods, and raise the minimum age to purchase guns—in order to protect fellow citizens in our own communities, it erodes the essence of our democracy and tarnishes our moral leadership in the world.

There are clear, proven, prudent steps out of this self-inflicted crisis that protect our citizens and the constitutional rights we cherish. Our national security demands we take them.

Cc:
Secretary Nielsen Attorney General Sessions
Secretary Mattis Director Wray 

SIGNATORIES

Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett
Former Deputy Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command

Daniel Baer
Former U.S. Ambassador for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Jeremy Bash
Former Chief of Staff of the CIA and Defense Department

Rand Beers
Former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor

Barbara Boxer
Former U.S. Senator

Antony Blinken
Former Deputy Secretary of State

Ambassador Bill Burns
Former Deputy Secretary of State

Ambassador Nicholas Burns
Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Joe Cirincione
President, Ploughshares Fund

Dan Feldman
Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Jon Finer
Former Director of Policy Planning and Chief of Staff at the State Department

Michele Flournoy
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Suzy George
Former Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff of the National Security Council

Phil Gordon
Former White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf

Avril Haines
Former Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Kathleen Hicks
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Eric Holder
Former Attorney General

Heather Hurlburt
Director, New Models of Policy Change, New America

Colin Kahl
Former National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

Juliette Kayyem
Former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

Harold Hongju Koh
Former State Department Legal Adviser

Kelly Magsamen
Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs

Tom Malinowski
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Robert Malley
Former Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign

Ambassador Michael McFaul
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Brian McKeon
Former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

Cecilia Muñoz
Former Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Scott Nathan
Former Associate Director at the Office of Management and Budget

Tom Nides
Former Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources

Jim O’Brien
Former Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs

Matt Olsen
Former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center

Maria Otero
Former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights

Amy Pope
Former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor on the National Security Council

Ambassador Samantha Power
Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Jeffrey Prescott
Former Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden

Ben Rhodes
Former Deputy National Security Advisor

Ambassador Susan Rice
Former National Security Advisor

Eric Rosenbach
Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of Defense Carter

Ambassador Dan Shapiro
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Ambassador Wendy Sherman
Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs

Jake Sullivan
Former National Security Adviser to Vice President Biden and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department

Francis Taylor
Former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security

David Wade
Former Chief of Staff to the State Department

Moira Whelan
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Digital Strategy

Ben Rhodesopen letter