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Where I Stand Some progress on gun safety, but more needs to be done

January 23, 2019

As 2018 ended, we are getting more facts on the toll gun violence takes, in addition to the progress that has been made in gun reform.

According to a study released from the Centers for Disease Control 2017, gun-related deaths came close to 40,000. Suicides made up over 60 percent of these deaths.

Since 2008 gun-related suicides have increased by 22 percent. Access to firearms triples the risk of death by suicide.

Johns Hopkins University reported that after Connecticut passed a law requiring individuals to obtain a permit and pass a background check before purchasing a handgun, Connecticut has had a 15 percent reduction in gun-related suicides.

From 2008 to 2017 states with higher rates of gun ownership, such as Kansas, Vermont, West Virginia and Missouri, had the highest rates of suicide. The study indicated that of those who died of self-inflicted gun shot wounds, 90 percent were white and 87 percent male. Among children and teens, gun-related suicides increased 76 percent over the same 10-year period. Safe storage laws have proven effective in keeping loaded firearms beyond the reach of children and teens.

More than 4.1 million children in 6,200 schools participated in one or more lock down drills during the last school year. Students who comprised the “lockdown generation” (from 2000-2018) came of age to vote in 2018. The Washington Post reported that since the Columbine massacre in 1999, more than 220,000 students at 225 schools have experienced gun violence. In 2018 there were 25 school shootings with 143 students and staff killed and 289 injured.

Parkland students created the movement “March For Our Lives” that spread throughout the country. The Parkland shooting began to change the gun debate and working with established national gun control advocacy groups led to stricter gun laws. They motivated the most forceful, diverse, media savvy youth movement designed to mobilize young voters, pressure lawmakers and sustain media coverage through the midterm elections.

An Axios poll found that 68 percent of young people between the ages of 14 to 29 identified school shootings as the most important issue in the U.S. and noted that “school shootings are this generation’s 9/11.” Their activism paid off by electing more Democratic congressional candidates who ran on gun reform and universal background checks.

In 2018 state legislatures passed 69 gun-control measures —13 times more than passed in 2017.

More than half of the states enacted at least one measure, while 90 percent of the bills backed by the NRA were defeated. The NRA’s “guns in public schools” agenda was defeated in 18 states.

The NRA and doctors clashed when the American College of Physicians published a paper recommending evidence-based policies to reduce gun related injuries and deaths. The NRA responded saying “someone should tell the self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” Rather than backing down, physicians responded with statements such as “this isn’t just one lane, it’s our highway” and “we are not anti-gun, we are anti bullet holes in people” and posted photos of their blood soaked scrubs and operating rooms.

The medical community reiterated its position that gun violence is a national public health crisis. They noted again that in 1996 the NRA lobbied Congress and effectively barred the CDC from researching the effects of gun violence. They have clearly stated that “Firearm Violence continues to be a public health crisis in the U.S. that requires the nation’s immediate attention. All restrictions should be lifted on gun violence research conducted by the CDC and other government agencies.”

In recent years 13 states have enacted Extreme Risk Protections Orders, also known as Red Flag Laws, or Gun Violence Restraining Orders. These laws authorize family members, intimate partners, and law enforcement officers to petition the court to restrict an individual’s access to firearms. If the court finds the person presents a danger to himself or others they can remove the firearms for a temporary period while the process is under review.

These laws will continue to be considered by more state legislatures in 2019.

In 2019 Congress will be held accountable, as 97 percent of Americans support Universal Background Checks on all firearm sales.

Gail Lehmann is a resident of Ridgefield.

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