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Chester County Press

When it comes to addressing gun violence, common sense should lead to common ground

07/23/2018 01:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman

If homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings are all factored in, by the time the calendar flips to 2019, more than 36,000 Americans will have lost their lives to gun violence this year.

That’s too many mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and friends losing their lives to ignore.

At the current pace, there will more than one mass shooting per day in the U.S. this year. Where do these shootings take place? Schools and churches and shopping centers and workplaces—places where we're supposed to feel safe.

One mass shooting per day is too many—way too many—to continue to accept.

On an average day, 96 Americans are killed during incidents involving guns. And for each person killed by guns, two more people are shot and wounded, sometimes critically.

In far to many instances, young people are the victims of gun violence. Seven children or teens are killed with guns each day, on average.

Common sense suggests that something needs to change.

But, of course, the issue of how to address gun violence in a country that has more guns than people has proven to be very divisive. The people with the most extreme views on either side of the issue are the ones who make the most noise. Meanwhile, no real progress is made. After each horrifying incident—a school shooting or a massacre at a Florida disco or a concert in Las Vegas—there is a brief war of words, and then everybody retreats back into their bunkers until the next incident.

If there is a path forward, maybe it rests in the hands of the young people in the country who have grown up watching the horrors of one school shooting after another, from Columbine to Sandy Hook to Parkland, Florida. These young people grew up fearing for their own safety in schools, churches, and other places that are supposed to be safe. That wasn’t true for the generation before them, or the generation before that. So maybe they will see how the adults have failed to act like adults on this issue—and do bettter.

The number of mass shootings in the country is a disgrace, and the inaction by lawmakers at the federal and state level is an even bigger disgrace.

Gun violence pervades our country in many other ways than mass shootings.

Each month, 50 women, on average, are shot to death by their partners. Guns are also used to terrorize partners and family members.

People who are suffering from mental illness can be particularly vulnerable to gun violence. Approximately 62 percent of firearm deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Suicide rates are also much higher in states where gun ownership rates are higher, even after accounting for differences in poverty, unemployment, alcohol, or drug abuse rates—suggesting that the mere availability of guns to people who are struggling can lead to more deaths.

Hundreds of people are killed each year, and thousands more are injured, because of accidental shootings.

Homicides, suicides, mass shootings, and accidental shootings all need to be reduced.

We can do better.

Gun Sense Chester County is one of the groups working to help make things better.

Unlike some groups that are vehemently anti-gun, Gun Sense Chester County isn’t taking aim at the Second Amendment rights of citizens. It isn’t advocating taking firearms away from responsible adults. Gun Sense Chester County wants everyone to participate in the process of developing more sensible gun regulations that will help reduce gun violence.

There are, it would seem, many different areas where gun rights advocates and people who want stricter gun regulations can agree on compromises.

What are some examples of the common ground where there seems to be agreement?

Statistics show that people are in favor of having a background check required before gun purchases. Statistics show that background checks have already stopped more than 3 million gun purchases by people who were prohibited from buying a gun. Enact laws that require a background check for each and every gun purchase.

There is also broad support for restricting gun ownership for felons or people who are seriously mentally ill and pose a threat to themselves and others.

We all have to prove that we're competent drivers before we can legally operate a motor vehicle. Is it unreasonable to expect the same before someone purchases a firearm?

There is wide agreement that anyone who is included on the federal “no fly” terrorist watch list shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun. Another area of general agreement is that anyone who wants to conceal carry a gun should have to apply for a special license or permit to do so.

There are many areas where there should be a reasonable common ground for Americans to stand on together. Common sense suggests that common ground can—and must—be found on the issue of gun violence, or the problems that we see today will only grow worse.