39,773 Americans were killed by guns in 2017, the highest number in 50 years. Guns kill more adolescents in this country than cancer does. School shootings are routine. Communities of color experience disproportionately high homicide rates. As trauma surgeons across the country have argued so eloquently, gun violence is a serious public health issue. It doesn’t have to be this way. Cities and states across the country have managed to cut gun violence significantly without denying the 2nd amendment. We have the right to feel safe at school, at the movies, at work, and at worship.
Common-sense gun safety laws have been proven to work in the states that pass them, Washington included. If we pass these gun laws federally, we can save lives while still taking into account differences in gun culture in urban and rural areas. We need universal background checks for all firearms sales, no exceptions. Background checks help keep weapons out of the hands of people with a proven history of violence, including domestic violence and stalking.
Though these gun safety measures will help decrease gun violence in America, it will take a comprehensive push to address the many factors that drive gun violence at a societal level. We are often prevented from having a sustained, honest conversation on the issue because of the influence of the gun lobby in both state and federal politics. It is also true that 60% of gun deaths are suicides. This number is as high as it is because of both the easy availability of guns and the narrow availability of mental healthcare. Anti-corruption legislation and universal mental healthcare are as much a part of ending gun deaths as universal background checks.