by Judy Ferro
Gun violence is no-win topic for Idaho Democrats. Guns are not only part of our heritage and a Constitutional right, but also handy around rattlesnakes and persistent porcupines. Moreover, a 2012 count found 180 licensed gun and ammunition manufacturers in Idaho, and Idaho jobs are important.
Gun violence, however, is getting harder and harder to ignore.
Just nine years ago, there were 1.5 times as many traffic deaths as gun deaths in the United States. Two years ago the Center for Disease Control reported 33,804 traffic deaths and 33,636 gun deaths.
In seven years, traffic deaths decreased by one-third while gun deaths increased by 10 percent.
Note that no one came to take our cars. No one even restricted our right to access gasoline. There were changes—tweaks in manufacturing, driver requirements, speed limits, etc.—but Americans continued to depend on their cars and put thousands of miles on them annually.
We could be looking for similar tweaks to cut gun violence. We could, that is, if our senators and representatives dared.
We could require background check on all gun sales. Surveys indicate that 80% of Americans would like to see guns kept out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill. Currently, 40 percent of all legal gun sales occur without any background checks.
If that’s too big a step, there are other options.
We would like to see mental health services improved, but we do nothing because it is the most expensive of the options. We aren’t even making drug rehab available to those who want treatment.
This week I’ve received petitions supporting two other tweaks in gun regulations. One would ban terrorists and their associates on the no-fly list from buying guns. That’s right, people deemed too dangerous to fly on our airlines are still allowed to buy guns—and we know they have bought 2,000 since 2001.
The second petition would authorize the Center for Disease Control to research gun violence. In 1996 Congress didn’t like the results of the previous year’s research and cut the CDC budget by the amount spent studying gun violence. The Center hasn’t done any weapons-related research since.
We know from data that some states have gun death rates six times the rate of others–but we have little research telling us why. Interesting fact: Idaho’s rate of gun deaths per capita is three times that of New York; Wyoming’s is four times.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders represents a state with lots of hunters and generally opposes gun regulations, but even he is willing to see discussion of some changes. In a letter this week, he suggested:
-Using background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those guilty of stalking and of domestic violence.
-Renewing the assault weapons ban and ending the sale of high capacity magazines.
-Passing Federal laws against gun trafficking and “straw purchases.”
-Funding suicide prevention programs.
I personally would like to see requirements for gun locks extended to all weapons. Computers come with options for requiring a password or fingerprint to operate them. Why not guns?
Admittedly, there is a Constitutional right to have guns. There is also a Constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. We still have regulations, such as the ones forbidding lying under oath and the handling of poisonous snakes as a religious rite.
I’m not suggesting we adopt all the options mentioned, but we should be open to discussing them.
> If we adopted only those regulations that have the support of the majority of citizens, it would help.