I support responsible gun ownership and have spoken with many gun owners who agree with the commonsense steps Connecticut has taken. Our state is a pro-active example to the rest of the country; our citizens matter, their lives matter, and their safety matters. We know the problem, we know the solutions, and we need to continue to fight for the right to live without the fear of gun violence.
17 years ago, as a journalist for National Public Radio, I covered a mass shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster Pennsylvania. That horror, and the heartbreak it brought, is still fresh in my mind. Over the last several months, gun violence has been in the headlines every single day. As of June 2, 2022, The Washington Post reports there have been over 250 mass shootings in the United States. A look at the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a website that records every daily gun incident through maps, charts, graphs, is frightening not only because of the violence it represents, but also the sheer volume that is documented there. Mass shootings are happening with increasing frequency, and it feels like nowhere is safe.
As the parent of a 4th grader, I was shaken to my core by the Uvalde elementary school shooting. Those children, and the teachers who cared for them, should be alive, just like the children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and so many others killed by gun violence. The dismaying list of names grows daily - Buffalo, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Brooklyn – cities and towns we know, as well as places we might never have heard of if not for the devastation visited on their community.
This is a uniquely American phenomenon. Elected officials have no higher calling than to provide for the safety of their constituents. Yet our country is failing its citizens. It angers me because our leaders know what the problem is, and we know what works. Common sense steps. Actions that Connecticut, for the most part, has already taken. Mandatory and universal background checks. Banning high- capacity magazines. Banning assault weapons for non-military use. Simply said, they are weapons of war. Connecticut’s red flag law went into effect in 1999, and according to advocates, it’s saved hundreds of lives. As of June 1, 2022, the law was expanded to allow family members and medical professionals to “red flag” someone if they believe that person is at immediate risk of using a firearm to cause harm to themselves or others. Will these steps prevent every mass shooting? Sadly no, but data tells us they make us safer
When you look at gun deaths per capita, states with regulations like Connecticut have relatively fewer deaths. Although these are certainly strong steps in the right direction, I believe regulations in Connecticut must go further. What more can we do? Make all ghost guns illegal in Connecticut, including those grandfathered into an exemption to the law in 2019, which makes the law difficult to enforce, for example. Explore additional actions, policies and law that are supported by safety data
What cannot also be overlooked when discussing gun violence, in addition to the horror of mass shootings, is its link to domestic violence, suicide, and crime. U.S. gun owners own a staggering 393.3 million firearms. In a country with a population of 330 million, 32% own firearms. According to gun safety organizations, more than half of gun owners store at least one firearm without locks or other safety measures. It’s estimated that annually more than a quarter million guns are stolen, creating a situation where formerly legally-owned guns are in the hands of criminals, with violence and crime rising accordingly. The same data shows that households with properly secured guns had a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted injuries and an 85% lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries in children and teens. Secure storage is critical – guns must be stored unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition. Secure storage not only makes those living in the household, particularly children, safer, it also reduces the chances of a gun being stolen. In Simsbury, we have been taking action. Simsbury Police Department is now part of ProjectChildSafe and is making cable gun locks free to current gun owners and will be providing them for new owners when they register their permit.
The Simsbury Board of Education has consistently presented school safety proposals on an annual basis to the Board of Selectmen, and I have voted for each one. The Board of Selectmen, recognizing the need to highlight this growing issue, declared June “Gun Violence Awareness Month,” and lit the Eno Memorial Hall clock tower orange. These are all steps in the right direction, on both the town and state level, but more must be done. I am committed to advocating for more safety measures and commonsense laws, supported by data and evidence that they are effective, that provide protection and peace of mind for the residents of Simsbury and Connecticut.