If you are one of the vast majority of Americans in favor of common sense gun control laws, the time to act is now. Please call your senator today because your call does make a difference.
The House of Representatives has passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, has allocated funding for gun violence research, and has addressed loopholes in legislation that will reduce gun violence. The Senate, on the other hand, has not taken a single action.
Aela Mannsman, Director of March for Our Lives—Maine, posed three questions at a recent rally I attended: Do you have the intent of harming yourself or others? Do you own a firearm illegally? Are you a domestic abuser? If the answer is “No” to these three questions, you are free to keep your guns. Despite the claims of the NRA, the Second Amendment is not under assault. But we and our children are.
Thirty-six thousand Americans are killed by gun violence each year, averaging 100 per day. Another 100,000 of our citizens are shot and injured, often with life altering consequences. (Of those killed, approximately 61 percent are gun suicides, 35 percent are homicides, 1.4 percent are law enforcement shootings, and 1.3 percent are unintentional shootings.) If these statistics aren’t frightening enough, gun deaths are on the rise — a 16 percent increase from 2014 to 2017. We must use our voices and our votes now to stop the ongoing tragedies.
No other high-income country suffers the unspeakable gun violence that we do. Americans are 25 times more likely to die from gun violence than the residents of Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Japan. No other high-income country allows assault style weapons to be purchased immediately, no questions asked. That common sense gun control laws make a real difference is borne out not only by the much lower number of gun deaths in other countries, but also in our own country. In 2017, Alaska, with weak gun control laws, had the highest gun deaths rate at 24.5 (per 100,000), and New York, with some of the strongest gun control laws, had one of the lowest at 3.7, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Gun control laws clearly save lives.
Many, including President Donald Trump, believe that gun violence is attributable to mental illness, but people with a treatable mental illness are actually responsible for only a small fraction of these crimes. In most cases, our mass shooters were angry, isolated, lacking in empathy, and seeking to make their mark. As a psychologist, I heartily support increasing resources for the mentally ill, but that will not significantly decrease gun violence. Passing common sense gun control laws will.
Some argue that teachers need to be armed to protect our children. But the vast majority of teachers don’t want to become sharpshooters; they don’t want ammunition and guns in their classrooms. To promote safer classrooms and healthy children, we should equip our schools and educators with the resources they need so that students feel seen and heard in healthy ways, especially those on the fringes who appear disengaged, angry, or alone.
In August, I attended a rally in Portland organized by Moms Demand Action. I was struck by the fact that the attendees fell primarily into two categories: students, both high school and college, and the baby boomer generation. As a member of the latter, I have more time to advocate than those raising young families.
I am asking all of you, especially those in my generation, to act. Please contact Senator Susan Collins today. Simply identify yourself and ask for the passage of common-sense gun control laws, including universal background checks, strong red flag laws, and the ban of assault style weapons. Your call will take less than 30 seconds. Then consider joining one of the organizations fighting for gun control; those include Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, and Gifford’s Law Center. By calling your senator and, if you’re able to, supporting an advocacy group, you will have done your part to stop gun deaths. Please be part of the solution.
Ann Schoenthaler-Ervin of Smithfield is a psychologist.