Monday, January 27, 2014

The Reality of Gun Violence

2013 was a memorable year for numerous reasons. Perhaps one of the saddest reasons was the increasing frequency of mass shootings. And already, 2014 is off to an incredibly dangerous start.

From movie theaters to restaurants to neighborhood strip malls and even the famous Las Vegas Strip, the fear of gun violence penetrated deep into our daily lives. Even our schools have sometimes transformed into armed battlefields.

So what can we do about this? How can we reverse this alarming trend? This is what several Nevadans discussed during a special summit on gun violence prevention that was hosted by the Center for American Progress and ProgressNow Nevada.

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When we talk about gun violence, we often encounter a number of misconceptions and wrong assumptions. One is that the debate is between "big guv'mint loony lib'rul gun grabbbers" and "gun totin' freedom lovin' conservatives". Unlike the caricatures we see in the media and from certain politicians, reality doesn't resemble the simple caricatures. And local gun owner Dwayne Morton came to the summit to explain this to the audience.

Actually, most gun owners support common sense efforts to reduce gun violence. Don't believe us? Believe this new PPP poll. Overall, 78% of Nevadans support expanding background checks for gun purchases. And 54% of that sample were gun owners.

So why do many in the media still resort to inaccurate caricatures when talking about gun violence? That's a good question. And it's one that Peter Ambler inadvertently brought to the forefront during his presentation. Before he went to work at Americans for Responsible Solutions, he started working for (then) Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) just days before she was shot at the Tucson massacre.

Both Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are gun owners. Giffords even enjoyed favorable grades from the NRA during her service in Congress. So what changed? They became victims of gun violence, and they later concluded that America is ready to move beyond the inaccurate caricatures and have a real discussion on the reality of gun violence.

Of course, the reality of gun violence isn't limited to other states. It's also come home to Nevada, and we can no longer ignore the dangerous consequences of inaction.

That's why ProgressNow Nevada's Annette Magnus & Teresa Crawford took to the stage at the summit. They reminded the audience of what occurred in Downtown Las Vegas on January 4, 2010. Security officer Stanley Cooper and US Marshal Richard Gardner were shot on duty at the Lloyd George Federal Building. Johnny Lee Wicks shot both of them with a gun he purchased without a background check at a gun show. Gardner ultimately survived the attack, but Cooper passed away.

Sadly, tragedies like this have become all too common in Nevada and throughout the nation. Believe it or not, 20 kids are hospitalized every day on average in this nation due to firearms injuries. And domestic violence victims now face more danger due to easy & lax gun laws (which allow abusers to access firearms).

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The reality of gun violence isn't sexy. It isn't always simple. It's never really limited to just "over there" and/or "not here". And it should never be forced into false caricatures.

Last year, very basic gun safety reform proposals were on the table in Congress and the Nevada Legislature. Both were ultimately smothered to death by the gun lobby. And we're all still living the consequences of that.

The reality of gun violence is quite lethal, yet it can be changed. Are we willing to change it? Are we ready to save lives? This is reality, but it doesn't have to remain this way.

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