Freedom from Fear… of guns

Is America’s “romance with guns” finally over? Who could feel romantic about an instrument of mass destruction?

Democrats want to pass new laws; and Republicans, for the most part, don’t. Follow the money, as they say. The career totals chart “Top 20 recipients of funds from gun rights interests among members of Congress, 1989-2018” from Open Secrets shows that all 20 (including PA Senator Pat Toomey and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) were Republicans.

It’s important that people talk about safety: gun safety, gun violence prevention, public safety, saving the depressed from turning a fatal instrument against their own lives, saving children from traumas they should not have to bear.

Two valiant Chesco legislators, among others, have recently made strong statements.

Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D-157):

“My colleagues and I have over 25 pieces of legislation that have not been passed out of committee that could put Pennsylvanians’ safety before an industry’s profits. The time is now to put an end to these hateful acts of violence. I urge our leaders to call the legislature to Harrisburg and not stand idly by.”

Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167):

“…we need to immediately pass laws requiring universal background checks and implementing a “Red Flag” law giving family members and others the power to ask the courts to remove guns from people who may be a danger to themselves and others.”

A Red Flag law might even have prevented the mass shooting in El Paso, since the accused shooter’s mother called police several weeks earlier. It isn’t clear what she told them, but a Red Flag law might have enabled her to tell police she thought her son should not own an assault rifle, and might have empowered police to take it away pending investigation.

For background, see “What Are ‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws, and How Do They Work?” by Timothy Williams in the New York Times, 8/6/19. Such laws, as just one needed measure to reduce gun deaths and injuries, appear to be helping in 17 states. It’s time for Pennsylvania to join our neighbors New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and as this month New York.

Rep. Howard reminds us that “Public records inform us that 600 women annually in America are shot to death by their partner.” Obviously a Red Flag law would help prevent such tragedies.

Similarly for suicides, which rose to 60% of all deaths by shooting in 2017. Chester County alone had 35 suicides by firearms in 2018, according to the Coroner’s office (download 2018 report).

Most of these killings and deaths could be prevented if our society made it a priority to do so, through measures like Red Flag laws, universal background checks, keeping military style weapons out of civilian hands, readily available mental health treatment, and gun locks especially in households with small children.

Like the US Senate, the PA Senate and House are controlled by Republicans. Will they let any pro-safety legislation through their road block? As some commentators have pointed out, even people who feel positively about guns can feel negatively about domestic terrorism. It is also hard to defend the role of guns in shooting partners and in killing oneself.

FDR’s famed Four Freedoms included Freedom from Fear. He was thinking of the armaments of nations; but today, we need to fear the armaments of individuals as well. Will the federal and state governments help solve the problem or just stand by as it worsens?


AK47, the type of assault weapon used by the accused El Paso shooter, from Wikimedia Commons (by gnokii at openclipart.org)

from Wikimedia Commons. 4 of PA’s 6 adjoining states have Red Flag laws.

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
This entry was posted in Guns and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Freedom from Fear… of guns

  1. Margaret Hudgings says:

    Excellent article about a very real problem that inspires fear in our society. Some nations have now put the US on a list of unsafe places for their citizens to visit. Unbelievable! An assault weapons ban would help so much. Look at the shootings when it was in place compared to today. Nobody needs an assault rifle for hunting. The vast majority approve this common sense measure. Time to bring it back. And that should be step one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.