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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,869
June 22, 2018
The Need For Stronger Gun Laws
By Mike McManus


When I was about 10 my father asked me to get him a pair of socks. In his sock drawer, I saw Dad's pistol. I took it out of its holster, and opened the magazine to see if there were any bullets there, as Dad had trained me to do.

Seeing none, I aimed the pistol at my head and thought about pulling the trigger. Then I thought, "No, that's silly." I turned the pistol toward his drawer and pulled the trigger.

BLAM! The bullet, which would have killed me, smashed through his sock drawer instead. It had been in the chamber which I could not see. I was punished, of course, but at least was alive!

I tell this frightening story because 25 children are killed by guns weekly in America. Between 2012 and 2014, an average of 1,297 children under age 18 died from firearms. Guns are the third leading cause of children's deaths!

These are needless deaths. Loaded guns should not be kept in areas where they can be found by children. Coincidentally, Wednesday was ASK Day (Asking Saves Kids) to ask parents and caregivers if there are any unlocked guns in the homes where children visit and play.

My father should have been asked!

In fact, 1.7 million kids live in homes with unsecured guns, and 80% of unintentional firearm deaths involving children under 15 occur at home. Doctors need to ASK their patients! Recently a federal appeals court struck down an NRA-backed Florida law that restricted doctors from talking to their patients about the risk of guns.

That victory came thanks to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence which is named after Jim and Sarah Brady. He was Ronald Reagan's press secretary when both the President and Brady were shot in 1981. Brady was shot in the head, almost died and was paralyzed for life.

The result was Jim and his wife Sarah dedicated their lives to preventing gun violence. They worked tirelessly to pass laws to ensure that handguns would not be sold to dangerous people. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law in 1994, which prohibited sales to felons, domestic abusers, and people with mental illnesses so severe they are a danger, and those discharged from Armed Services dishonorably.

The Brady Law has blocked the sales to 3+ million people, and is a major reason the number of murders dropped from 22,000 in 1995 to 14,200 in 2014.

However, 22% of guns sold in America are purchased without a Brady background check - mainly at gun shows, and by mail order. These loopholes must be closed - a goal supported by 90% of Americans and even 80% of gun owners. Loopholes allowed a shooter to kill 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook, Conn. President Obama tried to strengthen the Brady Law, but was unable to do so.

Seven states have expanded their background checks - New York, Washington, California, Colorado, Delaware, Oregon, Nevada plus Washington DC. They had impressive results: 53% fewer law enforcement officers were shot and killed and 47% fewer women by intimate partners.

In fact, 10 years after the Virginia Tech massacre of 32 students, Congress is rolling back some Brady protections. One law ended a requirement to block gun sales to Social Security recipients who are unable to work due to mental illness, or unable to manage their financial affairs due to illness. About 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness.

Why is Congress and Trump making it easier for those people to kill themselves?

A similar bill would prevent the Veterans Administration reporting at-risk veterans for background checks. Why, when "on this day when we have this debate, 20 brave men and women who have worn the uniform will take their lives in suicide," Rep. Elizabeth Esty asked. She represents Newtown, Conn. where Sandy Hook occurred.

By contrast, Connecticut passed a law which allows law enforcement to remove firearms from a person who the court has probable cause to believe poses a risk of imminent danger to themselves or others. A study of the law estimated that from 1999 to 2013 that it may have prevented 100 suicides!

On the other hand, after Republican Members of Congress were targeted by a left-wing zealot last week, they introduced legislation allowing Members of Congress to carry firearms anywhere in America. It is co-sponsored by 21 lawmakers, three of whom were at the targeted baseball practice. "We were sitting ducks," said one.

I agree with that proposal, though I support Brady restrictions for people who are a danger to themselves or others.

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.


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