“How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died?”
Many of us remember that protest song from the Vietnam era. And the daily body counts.
Nowadays, we hear similar body counts from mass shootings, suicides, homicides and accidental shootings. Too commonly.
It took eight years for 58,220 U.S. servicemen to die in Vietnam. The death toll from gun violence in the United States for just one year, 2017, was 39,773. Only Brazil has a higher annual death rate. And we have more guns per capita than any other developed country, essentially one firearm per person. Hand gun ownership has increased to 42% of family households. And, finally, the U.S. leads the world in child gun deaths. The connections are clear.
How many deaths? When will our representatives and senators, duly elected by the people of Utah and the nation, begin to respond to the pleas of those people to pass rational, reasonable gun legislation, in keeping with the Second Amendment, and consistent with ownership of arms by law-abiding citizens? When will they get their heads out of the proverbial sand of their ideologies, get their hands out of the pocketbooks of the NRA, and respond to their voters, the majority of whom want government regulation.
How many deaths? When will Clark Aposhian and the Utah Shooting Sports Council admit that reasonable gun regulation, e.g., licensure of guns after background checks, is no more an infringement of the Second Amendment and gun rights than are driver license testing and licensing for our driving privilege?
How many deaths? When will Congress restrict assault weapons to trained military personnel who use these weapons for their only purpose, to kill people? Restriction of large magazines to the same people for the same reason? And prohibition of bump stocks? All three would decrease mass shootings. Suicide and homicide deaths from handguns would be reduced by background checks with a three day waiting period before purchase from gun sellers.
Decreasing the number of weapons sold or already in our population to decrease our nation’s gun death toll will take a generation, but we must begin now to act on the problem, as we once did with motor vehicle licensure and regulation to curb crashes on the roads. Current gun safety education is clearly having only a minor effect effect on gun-related mortality.
Regulation of guns must become a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats must work together to find solutions. At least one of our members of Congress will vote for some of the above measures. I urge the other five senators and representatives to talk with their colleagues as they should, to begin passage of bipartisan legislation. I urge our state legislators to do the same, to enact effective state legislation.
I urge each voter, whether for or against regulation, to find out where his or her Congress people and state legislators stand on gun regulation, to vote for or against them in the 2020 election.
How many deaths will it take? The answer my friends, is not “blowin’ in the wind.” Does it have to be deaths or injuries to our own relatives, whatever our station, before we do something? It should not be so. The answer is in people speaking out, discussing the issue with people we know who are for or against restrictions, to come to common ground to decrease gun violence.
Let’s all get on with it.
Tom Metcalf is a retired pediatrician and community activist living in Murray.