Common Sense Gun Safety is our Moral Obligation to our Children
The leading cause of death among children in the United States involves a firearm. This statistic should stop all of us in our tracks and immediately call us to action, but it has not.
We have become so accustomed to gun violence that many in our country, and particularly in our government, shrug their shoulders and hope the problem will resolve itself. It’s not going to resolve itself, It’s going to take action at every level of government to make actual change that will keep our children and communities safe.
It is shameful that as parents and caregivers we are forced to explain to our children why they have to participate in active shooter drills. That we are shielding our children from the news each time the faces of children like them are killed at school. That we live with the reality that we can’t promise our kids they will be safe at school. Why does this continue to happen, well it’s because leaders at every level of government have failed to protect them from senseless, preventable violence.
We need sensible gun safety measures immediately to deal with a crisis that has been decades in the making. Assault weapons are commonplace in mass shootings and they are capable of firing more bullets faster than manual rifles. Critics of commonsense gun safety legislation will say they need AR-15s and other high-capacity guns for self-protection, while ignoring the fact that these weapons make schools, grocery stores, concert venues and other public places unsafe. When assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are used in mass shootings, there are much higher rates of death and injury. Between 2009 and 2020, the five deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. involved assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines: Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, Sutherland Springs and El Paso.
Prohibiting assault weapons can prevent mass shooting injuries and deaths and I support banning them and high-capacity magazines, as well as strengthening background checks, enacting safe storage and red-flag laws and repealing the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. As a first step, I call on my soon-to-be colleagues in the General Assembly to support Rep. Keturah Herron’s plan to create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
I support these measures because it is the right thing to do but also because elected officials have a mandate from the public to act. A recent CBS News poll showed strong support for background checks, federal red flag laws and AR-15 bans. In fact, many of these measures seem to be among the few things that unite us across political lines. The poll showed 88% of Democrats, 82% of independents and 74% of Republicans are in favor of background checks. Similarly, 84% of Democrats, 76% of independents and more than half of Republicans said they support federal red flag laws.
Some will cry foul and say any gun safety measures are “anti 2nd amendment.” I disagree. Any responsible gun owner would want measures to protect us all. I grew up on a farm in Western Kentucky and guns were a part of our everyday life. I have fond memories of hunting with my father and grandfather for deer, rabbits, squirrels—really anything that moved and was legal to hunt. But no matter what animal we were after, we never used an assault rifle. A 12-gauge shotgun or .30-06 was plenty. No one needs a weapon of war to feed or protect their family. These types of guns are specifically designed to kill many people quickly and efficiently. Their prevalence is making our country more dangerous, not safer.
Although it would be easy to become numb to the violence and throw up our hands, there are measures we can take—backed by research and data—to prevent gun deaths. We all have a moral obligation to protect our fellow Americans, especially the children who often bear the brunt of our INACTION. As your state representative elect., I will stand with my colleagues in the House and champion commonsense gun safety measures that will save lives, make our communities safer, and begin to heal the national trauma caused by these senseless tragedies.
This op-ed was also printed by Herald Leader.