February 18, 2019
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Children’s lives depend on common-sense gun laws

CARLOS BARRIA | REUTERS
CARLOS BARRIA | REUTERS
Gun control activists rally on Jan. 4 in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Are guns safer than lawn darts? A 1976 law says the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate lawn darts but not guns.

Nothing is worse in life than the death of a child. It is a national disgrace that, even after 20 children and six teachers were killed in their school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, we still do not have common-sense gun laws in this country. In the last three years, there were 144 school shootings in this country.

Some 18,000 children are injured or killed by gun violence in the U.S. each year. Forty-eight children are shot every day. This rate is 10 times the rate in other wealthy nations. The American Academy of Pediatrics says gun violence is one of the top three killers of children; 70 percent of women with children favor stricter gun laws.

Why hasn’t Congress passed common-sense gun laws? It is because of the influence of the gun industry and the National Rifle Association through lobbying and campaign contributions. The gun lobby is fighting for an industry that took in $14.7 billion in revenue in 2013.

Do military leaders support gun laws? In 2013, a group of retired generals met with Vice President Joe Biden and demanded a plan for stricter gun laws. Retired Gen. Stephen Xenakis said, “Assault weapons are weapons of war.” They said these weapons should not be available to the general public.

Do gun laws work? Massachusetts has universal background checks, safety training, safe storage, licensing like an automobile, no assault weapons and no ammunition greater than 10 rounds. States with the most gun control laws on the books, research has shown, have homicide rates that are 40 percent lower than in those states with the fewest laws. Massachusetts has the second lowest firearm fatality rate after Hawaii. Hawaii also requires registration of all firearms.

Professor Philip Alpers of Australia’s Sydney School of Public Health writes that it is a “basic human right” to “live without fear of death by gunshot.” He says the “gun is to gun violence as the mosquito is to malaria.” Gun violence is an “epidemic and a public health problem,” he writes. Public health is “protecting the health of the entire population through education, policy and research.”

Some say we cannot restrict guns because of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. It reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

This means the National Guard needs guns, and I agree with that. It doesn’t mean that individuals should be able to buy any gun on the market with no restrictions.

Gun violence is preventable. We need a common-sense approach to reducing gun violence now.

Universal background checks. President Barack Obama has taken a first step in requiring background checks for Internet gun sales, but we need universal background checks for all gun sales. Ninety-two percent of gun owners support universal background checks. There is a referendum on this in Maine in November.

Assault weapons ban. We had an assault weapons ban, but it expired and was not renewed. Sixty-two percent of the population supports this ban. No respectable hunter needs 10 rounds of ammunition or more to kill a deer.

Gun safety in the home. Are you safer if you own a gun? For every time a gun is used in self-defense, there are four accidental shootings, seven assaults or murders, and 11 suicides. If you have a gun in the home, lock it and store the ammunition separately.

Gun ban for terrorists. A bill to ban terrorists on the watch lists from buying guns did not pass in Congress recently. Some 2,000 people on the FBI Terrorism Watch List bought guns legally in the past 11 years. We need to pass this bill now.

Obama said in his State of the Union address, “Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us every day.”

That means voting for the universal background check referendum in Maine this fall and insisting that our congressional delegation vote for common-sense gun laws such as bans on assault weapons and bans on guns for those on the terrorist watch list. Children’s lives depend on common-sense gun laws.

Dr. Kathryn Bourgoin is a family practice physician who lives in Orono.

 



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