It seems like I wake up every morning to news that someone in Lexington has been shot. Recent killings have included pregnant women and toddlers. This epidemic of gun violence has got to stop.
I’m talking about all the gun violence: the mass murderers who shoot up elementary schools, the toddlers who accidentally shoot their siblings, the teenagers who take their own lives with their parents’ guns — all of it.
The American Medical Association has long advocated treating gun violence as a public-health crisis because firearm injuries are a leading cause of death in this country. This is also true for Lexington. Studies have shown gun violence is contagious; it can spread like an infectious disease within communities.
We can debate whether new laws about accessibility of guns to minors would keep our kids safer. Or whether smaller magazines would lessen the body count left by people determined to kill, but the fact is, there is scant scientific evidence to show us what will help curb gun violence.
Ever since the NRA successfully lobbied Congress to pass a law that prevents federal funding going to scientific research that might result in new gun-control laws, known as the Dickey Amendment, we’ve had limited research into gun-safety initiatives.
As a result, research on gun violence lags far behind research into other leading causes of death. However, scientific studies have been used to reduce mortality rates for other leading causes of death like car accidents. It makes sense we should study gun violence as well.
At the state level, recent bills to address access to firearms by minors have died without even being heard in committee. At the federal level, amendments have been proposed in the last two budget cycles to eliminate the Dickey Amendment and allow the Centers for Disease Control and others to study prevention of gun-related deaths, but those amendments have been defeated.
Guns produce heated opinions no matter on which side of the political spectrum one happens to land. However, we have to push beyond partisanship to solve the gun-violence epidemic in our country.
Liberals are going to have to understand that the Second Amendment guarantees, with limits, the right to own guns. Conservatives are going to have to recognize that for the most part, liberals aren’t trying to take away their guns. I don’t want the government to be the only people with guns, but I’m tired of the heartbreak and destruction guns are wreaking upon my city and state.
The need to study gun violence, both the intentional and accidental kind, is rooted in numbers, which nobody can dispute: 30,000 people die from gun violence every year in this country. Lexington just recorded its 19th homicide this year.
When children are killed in homicides, guns are the leading cause. Nationally, 1,300 children are killed by a gun every year, the third-leading cause of death in children. As reported by this paper, in Kentucky, 86 children died by firearms between 2010 and 2014, and 36 accidentally shot themselves or another child with a loaded gun in the past five years.
No law or prevention effort will prevent every shooting; we have too many other societal problems for that, but we can make a difference.
Just like on most issues, progress only comes when we work together. If we could put our political ideologies aside and engage in civil discourse on this issue, I suspect we’d find we aren’t as far apart on solutions as we think we are.
Our members of Congress still have to listen to us, even if they’re not happy about it.
Our state legislators work for us. Call yours and tell them politics, and the money that comes with it, have no place dictating public-health research. Solutions to our gun-violence problems should come from facts, not political agendas.
Shelley Roberts Bendall lives in Lexington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.