Cumberland Times-News

January 28, 2013

We can protect ourselves and the Second Amendment

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— On Dec. 14, 2012, our nation wept for reasons of which we are all well aware. The devastating tragedy in Newtown, Conn., brought us to our knees. It was a heartbreaking event that we can neither forget or ignore.

As a civilized society, we must take action to better ensure the safety of our children and to ensure that our self respect as human beings is not further diminished.

We need to act quickly, before the event in Newtown lapses into history only to be replaced by another unthinkable tragedy and the cycle of inaction repeats itself.

There is no easy solution to gun violence in America, or the problem would have been resolved long ago. But surely, reasonable minds can agree on sensible steps to make our country more safe.

This can be done while also protecting the Second Amendment rights of millions of law-abiding citizens who own guns and do so responsibly.

First, let us be clear as to the extent of gun violence in America. When you compare our gun-related death rate to other industrialized countries, the U.S. is an extreme outlier.

For example, gun-related death rates per 100,000 persons in Australia, Canada and the U.K are 0.10, 0.50, and 0.03 respectively. By comparison, the U.S. rate is 2.98 (Source: Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney.)

In some cities, gun-related death rates are five to 10 times the overall rate for the U.S. In Chicago alone, there were 505 gun shooting deaths in 2012. The majority of the victims were people of color, and more than 100 of them were elementary to high school children.

Gun deaths in Chicago outnumbered American troop deaths in Afghanistan last year. These facts are largely ignored by the mainstream media. This is unacceptable, and it is absurd. Clearly, we should take steps to study and reduce the culture of violence in America.

But any serious efforts to reduce gun violence must include the following common-sense measures regarding the availability of guns. We need to restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition clips.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who served as commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, recently said the following about assault weapons: “That’s what our soldiers ought to carry. I personally don’t think there’s any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America.”

 We need a federal law that requires universal background checks for all gun purchases. This would close the gun show “loophole,” which allows about 40 percent of gun sales to be done without background checks. Fixing this problem would prevent a dangerous person from going to a gun show and walking out with an armful of weapons.  

Finally, we need the federal government do more to require states and federal agencies to submit information about disqualified individuals, including people with mental illness, for inclusion in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Each of the above measures are broadly supported by a majority of Americans.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center finds that 55 percent of Americans favor a ban on assault-style weapons, 85 percent favor background checks for private gun shows, and 80 percent favor preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns.

The Allegany County Branch, NAACP urges you to contact your federal, state and local elected officials to request their support for safe, sane and sensible gun violence prevention laws, policies and programs.

Concerned citizens need to make their voices heard. As a decent country, we can no longer accept the status quo.

Richard W. Jones, communications chair

Allegany County Branch, NAACP