Guns do not make us safer and it’s time our representatives acted

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickOn Valentine’s Day, as more than 5,000 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol in Hartford to demand stricter gun laws, a hemisphere away, South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was shooting to death his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in his Pretoria home.

Adele Kirsten of Gun-Free South Africa stated the simple truth: “Having a gun in your home puts you and your family at risk of being shot.”

That simple truth, that all guns are dangerous, including those kept in the homes of “law-abiding citizens,” holds here as well. In 2003 the Annals of Emergency Medicine reported that American women living in homes where there are guns are nearly three times more likely to be murdered as women living in gun-free homes. Researcher James Bailey found that nearly 30 times more women are murdered in their homes by people they know than are murdered by strangers.

In the past four years alone, there have been 56 mass shootings using guns (four or more persons killed). More than half of those mass shootings involved the murder of a spouse or former intimate partner and family members. And according to Brendan Campbell of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, one-third of all child deaths are caused by guns.

Just as guns in the home result in family members getting shot, the more guns there are in a community, state, or country, the more people get shot. In Australia, where gun ownership is a sixth of that of the United States, the rate of gun deaths is barely a 10th of America’s. In Connecticut, where just one household in six owns a gun, which is well below the national average, the rate of gun deaths is the fifth lowest in the nation.

In Greenwich, where the violent crime rate ranks among the lowest in the country, barely one in 40 households has a handgun permit.

Yet far too many people in this state continue to be killed by guns. Opinion surveys show that after Newtown, residents overwhelmingly support strengthening our gun laws. A poll in January by the University of Connecticut revealed that nine out of 10 state residents want universal background checks and a ban on the sale of guns to the mentally ill. Roughly two-thirds support banning all military-style assault weapons and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds.

But that message has yet to get through to Greenwich’s elected representatives. While in 1993 all four Republican members of Greenwich’s General Assembly delegation voted to ban assault weapons, today the town’s three Republican state representatives and one state senator refuse to commit to supporting any legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or extending background checks to all gun purchases. Though Stamford’s Republican mayor, Michael Pavia, recently joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei has not.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” said Vice President Biden in his speech in Danbury. “These tragedies must end.”

He’s right. Residents of the Constitution State must reject the NRA’s false argument that guns protect families, because the data show that the truth is the opposite. The gun-obsessed claim that they and their guns are safeguarding American freedoms. Yet the only freedom they appear interested in defending is the freedom of a virtually unfettered flow of guns, including assault weapons, which Newtown police Chief Michael Kehoe bluntly described as “killing machines” that should be banned.

“There is a moral price to be paid for inaction,” Mr. Biden said.

Our elected representatives should understand that there could be an electoral price to be paid as well for their failure to support stricter gun laws.

 

Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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