A Promise Made, A Promise Kept?
It is a terrible tally that we keep, that of counting those killed and maimed by gun violence each year.
In recent weeks, we have mourned with Tree of Life Synagogue members in Pittsburgh as they laid to rest 11 victims of the October 27 shooting by an alleged racist. Less than two weeks later, our hearts were wrenched at the thought of 12 more families grieving the loss of lives at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oakes, California; then, three more in a Chicago hospital shooting...
At gunviolencearchive.org, 140 deaths through mid-November since January resulted from 23 mass shooting incidents of four or more per incident — dozens more with “only” one to three victims, not to mention the wounded. The emotional wounds are incalculable.
Of these 23 incidents, ten were the result of domestic violence; multiple victims were children.
There are so many gun violence incidents in our country that they are mere flashes in the news cycle; we blink away tears and move on.
We can blame people; we can blame health care; we can blame legal loopholes. And yes, we can blame the easy access to guns that make it possible for gun violence to be the new normal.
Strong and strongly enforced federal gun laws must even the field nationwide. Without such laws, we will go on, year after year, tending to those with broken hearts and broken bodies.
Proper identification and assessment of those in danger of hurting themselves or others and making mental health assistance readily available must be a national priority. Universal background checks for gun purchases would stymie those who should not own guns from doing so. While assault weapons figure prominently in mass shootings, it is the handgun that causes more deaths overall. Federal licensing and registration of handguns, a limit on high-capacity magazines, and limiting internet sales of guns and ammunition is in order.
Positive action is required: Domestic violence victims must be assured that those who threaten them will not retain or possess guns. Gun violence victims include a majority who commit suicide, often with a gun that is household property. We need to resolve social problems that leave people feeling a need for firearms protection in their homes. It should be required that any gun lost or stolen is reported. Training in the proper use of guns is essential.
Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, who oversees Connecticut’s $34 billion pension fund, in November joined a coalition to encourage gun manufacturer reforms to make products trackable and difficult to acquire. The pension fund has invested $16.5 million in companies that manufacture guns. This coalition needs to go further, though, than encouragement. Gun manufacturers that do not take action to address this public health issue must be assured that coalition members will divest funds from them.
We will never stop every act of gun violence. Outlaws will find ways to possess guns and inflict harm. But we know the numbers can be greatly reduced if troubled people are frustrated by strictly enforced gun laws, if laws concerning gun and ammunition storage in the home are enforced, and if social-emotional issues are recognized and addressed before gunning down others becomes the answer.
We promised. Never forget.
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