Each day in the US, 321 people are shot. Of those, roughly 90 die, including 9 children daily. Although the number of deaths have decreased over the years, the number of wounded has risen. Gun violence is a public health problem that costs Arizonans 1.9 billion dollars a year. That’s money not going to education, the environment, health care and other vital state needs. There are steps we can take to prevent gun violence in America.
I am a gun owner. I am also the victim of gun violence as my paralysis is the result of a still-unsolved drive-by shooting. Some of the measures I advocate for now and will continue to advocate for as a legislator include:
Universal background checks: Simply put, UBCs save lives. I advocate for background checks on the sale and transfer of all firearms without exception. It is true that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Therefore, we need to vet the people is who possess firearms to ensure that prohibited possessors (felons, people with restraining orders, people on the terrorism watch list, etc.) are not able to buy firearms. UBCs are quick – done in usually 90 seconds, and done at no charge. In states where UBCs are required, there has been a significant drop in gun crimes, domestic violence related murders, and officers shot in the line of duty.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders: ERPOs are modeled on the well-established and proven systems of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault protection orders with careful protection for due process and standards of evidence. Family members or law enforcement can ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that the person poses a serious threat to themselves or others. Family members and police are often in the best position to see the warning signs of violence. ERPOs would give them a tool to prevent a tragedy before it happens especially suicides, domestic violence-related homicides and even mass shootings.
Improving mental health services: The majority of gun deaths are the result of suicide. Nearly 100% of individuals who attempt suicide by gun are successful. Mental health experts tell us that when we can support a suicidal person through their crisis, the urge to commit suicide often fades. Every day, 17 veterans commit suicide. We owe them better access to supportive services.
Opposing the extreme gun lobby: In recent years, the Arizona legislature has passed some of the most extreme pro-gun legislation in the nation. Every year, we see bills seeking to allow guns everywhere from college campuses to establishments that sell liquor. In the 2016-17 session, there was an attempt to gut Shannon’s Law – a bipartisan law passed 18 years ago to make discharging a firearm within city limits a felony. The law was championed by a Republican Attorney General with broad support and signed by Jane Hull. There has never been an instance where someone was wrongfully prosecuted under Shannon’s Law. Yet, GOP lawmakers brought a solution without a problem.