Last night I attended a panel discussion on reducing firearm violence reduction. One of the three speakers was a colleague, an emergency room doctor who is also internationally known for his research on reducing the deaths and injuries from firearms. The other two were a married couple who lost their daughter in a gun massacre 12 years ago, and have become a force for change in mental health care and gun laws. I’m familiar with the research in this area. But one simple fact stunned me. Our congressman, John Garamendi, is a progressive Democrat re-elected by an 8-point margin. His mail, however, is running 9 to 1 against gun control legislation. Our panel said: “Write letters – they matter!”
Ready to write letters and make a difference? Read on.
Our panel laid out facts and demolished myths about reduction of gun violence. Here is a short summary.
• Some 40% of firearm sales are private, undocumented and unchecked. They are the most important source of guns for criminals and others prohibited from owning guns. Most crimes use newly acquired guns, not older ones. Requiring background checks on all transactions would reduce their availability. And 90% of Americans, including over 70% of NRA members, support this proposal.
• Current law prohibits sales to felons, but people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes are also at high risk of future violent crime (10-15 fold higher risk if 2 or more violent misdemeanors.) Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of firearm violence substantially. We could expand the list of people who cannot legally buy guns.
• High-capacity magazines make the casualty numbers higher. If Jared Loughner had only 10 bullets loaded, an 8-year-old girl would still be alive.
• City- and state-level regulation is insufficient. Chicago gun crimes are committed with weapons bought outside the city. A third of the cars in Nevada gun show parking lots have California plates. But there is enough evidence from local efforts to show that regulation does have an impact.
The evidence supports the proposals of President Obama’s special panel. They may not eliminate gun violence, but they will reduce it substantially. And the majority of Americans support these common-sense, constitutionally sound proposals. Even Justice Scalia has stated that some regulation of the right to bear arms is both permissible and wise. Our audience asked, “So what is standing in the way? What can we do to help?”
Our panel, and the congressional aide in the audience, told us that Congress needs to hear our voices. Not just petitions, not just demonstrations, but our letters and our phone calls – to our own representative and senators, and to the leadership.
I know that DailyKos readers are enthusiastic and articulate writers – I’ve been reading your diaries and comments. Let’s turn that talent and energy to writing letters – and get all your family and friends to write. If you live in my district, write to Congressman Garamendi! Call your own representative’s office, and find out what they are hearing, and write to them! Write to your senators! Write to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid! Just for the heck of it, write to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell!
All you need to tell them is that you want them to vote for gun violence prevention proposals – background checks, ammunition limits, more mental health care and health research - now. Send email – snail mail is delayed for physical inspection.
And write back and let the rest of us know that you’ve written.