By Dana Kellerman
Pulse. Las Vegas. Parkland. Tree of Life. El Paso. A litany of places that we all immediately recognize.
New Orleans, Memphis, Birmingham, St. Louis, Milwaukee. Cities where so many die from gun homicide that we don’t even notice anymore.
Americans agree that gun deaths are a national crisis. We would do well to take a page from the way our nation handled a similar crisis, highway fatalities, decades ago.
We saw that highway fatalities were a national crisis. Our cars were our way of life and yet far too many of us died on the roads each year. We did what seems obvious and yet we cannot bring ourselves to do about gun violence. We recognized that a complex problem has complex solutions.
We didn’t expect a single law to eliminate all highway deaths and we didn’t reflexly attack others with the same goal but a slightly different approach. What did we do? The Federal government mandated that all vehicles (except buses) be fitted with seatbelts.
Over time, seat belts were improved and in 1984, we passed the first law mandating seat belt use. Public service campaigns helped change the culture so that most of us now buckle up automatically. But we didn’t put all of our eggs in the seatbelt basket. Congress developed a comprehensive approach to automobile safety and set safety standards for new cars.
Now our cars have padded dashboards, standard airbags, electronic stability controls, back up cameras and the LATCH child safety seat system. Our government went even further to keep us safe. It passed laws lowering the speed limit on interstate highways.
States improved their vehicle safety inspections. Highway departments improved the length and grading of ramps and the reflectivity of paint on highway signs. And during this entire process, NOBODY yelled that the government was coming for our cars.
Today we need Congress and our state legislatures to do the same for firearms. We need universal background checks and extreme risk laws. We also need bans on high capacity magazines and assault weapons, safe storage laws, and mandatory lost and stolen reporting.
We need to increase the minimum purchase age to 21 and we need to fund research to learn what additional measures will decrease the carnage we face from guns today, while preserving the right of law abiding gun owners to engage in firearms recreation and maintain weapons for self defense.
We did it for cars. We must do it for guns.
Dana Kellerman is the policy director for Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, and a member of Congregation Dor Hadash, in Pittsburgh.
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