Respect for life has been the watchword of the General Assembly’s first week of work as, indeed, it’s become a rallying cry for many political agendas in recent months and years.
Time and again both the Kentucky General Assembly and the U.S. Congress have been willing to restrict the rights of adults, including parents, in order to protect children, born and unborn. For example, laws require immunizations and allow the state to remove children from homes where they are suffering from neglect or abuse.
We restrict access to alcohol and tobacco for young people. In Kentucky the state imposes six months of restrictions before they are eligible for a full driver’s license.
But neither the General Assembly nor Congress sees any need to restrict the 18-year-old who can’t drink legally from buying a gun.
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Legislators have clearly placed gun owners’ rights ahead of those of the young people we otherwise work so hard to protect.
Because each year more young people perish to gun violence while our lawmakers throw up their hands, quaking in subservience to a gun lobby that it fears more than a rising gun death rate.
This painful reality was driven home in the story by the Herald-Leader’s Fernando Alfonso III about the striking trends among homicides in Fayette County. Last year, 2016, the county experienced the most homicides — 24 — since 2001, and 23 of those victims were killed by guns.
The average age of all victims was 24. Among the gun victims were 22-year-old Maryiah Coleman and her unborn son, and 2-year-old Nova Maria Hillman.
Throughout Kentucky in 2014, the last year for which data are available, in all ages groups 627 homicides occurred with firearms, a rate of 13.8 per 100,000 population, compared to 10.2 nationally.
Kentucky is also ahead of the nation in suicide deaths, many of which occur by firearms.
This is not unique to Lexington or Kentucky. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports that every day in the United States, 48 children and teens are shot; including four who are murdered and two who kill themselves.
But none of this slaughter can budge the legislative agenda. Congress is so fearful that it doesn’t even want to know more, to engage in scientific inquiry into the reasons for the mounting gun death toll.
Following the death by gunshots last summer of 15-year-old Trinity Gay, Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, prefiled a bill to allow local governments to pass gun control legislation.
In a rapid-fire week when legislators tripped over themselves to rush through legislation to restrict access to abortion, the Senate could not even find the time to assign Thomas’ measure to a committee. Nor is it likely to find time to discuss the bill this session, or any session.
In Frankfort, as in Washington, some lives mean less than others.
Kentucky legislators must hear Thomas’ bill or admit that lives lost to gun violence mean least of all.