Fresh Ideas: This doesn’t have to be the new normal
January 16, 2013
While the senseless massacre of six- and seven-year-olds in Newtown, Conn., was horrific, it shouldn’t shock us. According to Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly 120,000 children and teens have died due to gun violence since 1979. That’s about 10 dead children a day, every day, for the last 32 years. Apparently, this is our new normal.A new CDF report, “Protect Children, Not Guns,” released last week focuses on the risks of gun violence to children and makes a case for reasonable gun legislation as a matter of public health. I urge you to go to http://www.childrensdefense.org for the complete report and the sources of the numbers cited here. A few highlights:Guns at home increase risk. A gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher. It makes suicide three to five times higher and accidental death four times higher. Moreover, each time a gun in a home injures or kills in self-defense, there are 11 completed or attempted suicides. There also are seven assaults and homicides, not to mention four accidental shooting deaths or injuries.Lock ‘em up — the guns I mean. One-third of households with children younger than 18 have a gun. Forty percent of those homes do not lock up their guns. Nearly one-fourth of children in gun-owning households admit to handling guns at home without their parents’ knowledge.Close loopholes. Anyone can buy a gun without a background check. Anyone. Stings at gun shows in 2009 revealed that 63 percent of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who stated they couldn’t pass a background check. A 2011 study of Internet gun sales found 62 percent of sellers willing to sell to a buyer who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.The majority of Americans, including gun-owners and NRA members (notably, not its leadership however) support universal background checks as well as banning high-capacity ammunition clips and assault weapons. These very reasonable solutions reduce gun violence and protect the legal use of guns.Geoffrey R. Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago, blogs on the Huffington Post. Earlier this month he wrote, “Even if we agree that the Second Amendment forbids the government to ‘infringe’ the right to ‘keep and bear arms,’ that does not mean that the government cannot reasonably regulate the manufacture, sale, ownership and possession of firearms.” Furthermore, “Just as there is no First Amendment right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater, there is no Second Amendment right to carry an AK-47 there.”How many more children will die from gun violence before we stand up to defend them? As President Obama said at the Newtown prayer vigil last month, “Caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.” Amen.• Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.