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Friday, January 11, 2013

GUEST BLOG: It’s time for a heart-to-heart discussion about guns


By Cathie Whittenburg, on-line communications consultant, 
States United to Prevent Gun Violence

Let’s have a deep, heart-to-heart discussion about guns.  Let’s not play the game the gun lobby wants to play, the one where they talk about guns as an absolute right and are constantly accusing us of wanting to ban all guns.  Let’s be clear right from the start, there is no organization out there working to ban all guns.  Period.  It doesn’t exist. And while the Supreme Court might have ruled that you have a right to own a handgun in your home for protection, Justice Antonin Scalia also wrote, “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.  It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

As Americans we deserve the right to be safe and free from gun violence but we have allowed guns to saturate our society and threaten that freedom. One thousand people a day in this country are directly impacted by gun violence.  They are killed by firearms; shot and injured; or find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun, victims of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a gun. One thousand people a day, every day.

There are parts of our country where our children are suffering from clinical depression and have PTSD because of the level of gun violence that surrounds them on a daily basis.  And while, as a nation, we are no more or less violent than other industrialized countries, due to the overwhelming number of guns in this country our homicide rate is by far the highest. 

In 1982, when seven people died after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide, the response was reforms in the packaging of over-the-counter drugs and federal anti-tampering laws. In 2001, a passenger on an airplane flying from Paris to Miami attempted to set off explosives hidden in his shoe.  In response to this incident, passengers at U.S. airports are now required to remove their shoes before proceeding through scanners.  Every year, defective and dangerous products are recalled, engineers study ways to make our roads and bridges better, agencies monitor and regulate the water we drink, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the airplanes we travel in, all in an effort to keep us safe.

Yet when it comes to gun violence, all too often the response from our elected officials is silence and an unwillingness to address the issue. Really?

The time is now to start a serious, national conversation about guns in this country.  Because this is an issue that affects real people and the impact of this discussion will last for a long time.

Yes, it’s important for you to call your Senators and Congressperson and tell them we need stronger gun laws.  But it can’t end there.  Call your state legislators too, call your city councilor, call your religious and business leaders, talk to your neighbors and the person standing behind you in the grocery store line.  Tell them you want to have a real discussion about guns. 

Ask them if they know the true dangers of having a gun in the home.  Tell them that while guns might be used to stop some crimes, they are far more likely to be used to commit crimes.   Mention that guns are the only consumer product not regulated for health and safety and as a result there are guns out there that can discharge just by being dropped.  Point out that if a civilian wanted to purchase a fully automatic AK-47 they would have to apply for a special federal gun license and then register the gun.  Ask why, then, is it OK for someone to buy a semi-automatic version of the exact same gun without so much as a criminal background check.  Ask them why anyone needs to be able to fire 30, 40, 100 rounds before having to reload. Point out that the Second Amendment refers to “arms” not “guns” and the very fact that you can’t go out and buy a nuclear weapon shows that regulation already exists.

STATES UNITED TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE CAN HELP

States United to Prevent Gun Violence wants to help you with these conversations.  We want you to feel prepared and excited and to give you information, because information has the power to change the culture.

Sign-up to receive The GVP Report, our e-magazine for the gun violence prevention movement.  Every other week, we will send you a comprehensive overview of the issue, emerging news and trends, and ways to get involved in the movement.  Presented in an easy to read dashboard format, The GVP Report allows readers to quickly scan the content and link to articles of further interest.  The GVP Report is the only publication that offers a consistent, comprehensive, inclusive look at the gun violence issue in this country.  You can also read it online.

Visit our website, and see if there is a state member group where you live.  If there is, give them a call and tell them you want to help.

One thousand people a day have their lives taken, injured or threatened with a gun.  When we allow anyone to buy a gun through a private sale at a gun show or over the internet – no matter how dangerous the person, no matter how dangerous the gun – no one is free from the threat of gun violence.  Let’s have a real, heart to heart discussion about how we will work to change this. 

Cathie Whittenburg is on-line communications consultant for States United to Prevent Gun Violence, (www.supgv.org) a member of Alliance for Justice.

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