I was advised not to address the issue of gun violence because the powerful gun lobby in our country has shaped and controlled a segment of very vocal gun-rights enthusiasts. But the amount of gun violence in our nation is staggering and we must confront it head on. I want to start by saying, protecting people from the epidemic of gun violence is not the same as taking people’s guns. The 2nd Amendment was beneficial to arming our militias against the British in the 18th Century but has nothing to do with Americans in 2018. I also want to point out that I was a corrections officer and a gun owner, and my husband is an infantryman and gun owner. Addressing the issue of guns in our country is about having sensible protections for society. This is not too much to expect from our Congress.
As of the writing of this, January 31, 2018, there have been 4,559 shooting incidents this year in the U.S. In that one-month period, 1,219 people were shot to death. Last year in the 1st District of Georgia, 38 people died from gun violence, 17 of them were children under the age of 17. This is a public health crisis and we need to treat it as such.
We can reduce gun violence together by creating a culture of gun safety, funding CDC research, passing sensible gun laws, and collaborating as communities to address the issue. Sensible gun legislation would include: universal background checks for all gun sales (which 95% of Americans support), required training and on-going refresher training, banning fully-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines for civilians, limiting bulk purchases of handguns, requiring reporting for lost or stolen guns, keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and those at-risk for violent behavior, and keeping guns out of inappropriate areas, such as school campuses, and establishments serving alcohol. Since there are almost twice as many suicide deaths by guns than homicides (22,000 per year) mental health treatment and removing its stigma, as well as suicide prevention are crucial components to reducing gun violence.
While sensible gun legislation greatly reduces gun violence, we must also work within our communities to address the cause of violence, particularly in our underserved urban communities where homicide rates are often 10 times the national average. By creating mentoring programs, group violence intervention programs, cure violence intervention programs, and hospital-based intervention programs, we can follow the lead of Richmond, California. At one time, Richmond was one of the most violent places in America. Through the passage of strong, sensible gun laws, and collaborating with respected leaders in the community to form and implement violence intervention programs, their gun homicide rate dropped over 75%.
We can do the same across our nation. It is beyond time to fix the scourge of gun violence that has gripped our nation. In my lifetime, we have lost over a million and a half people to gun violence, that number is greater than the number of Americans lost in all wars combined. It's time for lawmakers and communities to stand together to end this senseless loss of lives to gun violence.
To learn more, visit: www.gunviolencearchive.org