Steps we can all take to curb gun violence

Barbara L. Finch is co-chair of the Campaign for Common-Sense Gun Solutions sponsored by Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice.  She lives in University City and is a member of Central Reform Congregation.

By Barbara Finch

Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman’s excellent commentary, “What you can do about gun violence” (St. Louis Jewish Light, Jan. 13), spells out exactly what needs to be done from a legislative standpoint to help curb the epidemic of gun violence that is sweeping communities across the country. 

Certainly, we need comprehensive background checks on all individuals who purchase guns, no matter where they get them. Undoubtedly, we need to confront candidates for office and demand that they stand up for public health and safety.  

Individuals can do more things about gun violence.  Here are a few of them:

1. If you have firearms in your home, Lock them up. This seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it is not.  As Newman pointed out, five young children, really just toddlers, managed to pull the trigger on a loaded, unlocked gun and kill themselves or others last year.  One of those children was in nearby Hanley Hills.  He was 21 months old. 

It’s important to keep in mind that suicides, not homicides, account for a majority of gun deaths in this country.  A loaded, unlocked gun can present an overwhelming temptation to someone who is depressed, or to a teenager in a moment of despair.

If you purchase a new gun from a licensed dealer, a gun lock will come in the box, and the dealer should show you how to use it. Gun locks also can be obtained from most police departments.  Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice has a “Lock It For Love” program, which distributes cable gun locks, free of charge, to families that have unsecured firearms and children in the home (email [email protected] for more information on the program).

2. Ask.  If your child or grandchild plays at the home of friends or relatives, ask the adults in that home if they have guns and if so, how they are stored.  Don’t assume that firearms are secure.  If you’re not comfortable with the answers, don’t let your child play there.  This may be an awkward conversation, but it might save your child’s life.

3. Stand up for sanity.  Don’t let those who profit from the sale of firearms convince you that it is “normal” to see guns everywhere, all the time.  Gun manufacturers and the NRA would like to make this the “new normal,” but it is not.  

It is not normal to have to post “no weapons allowed” on the doors of our synagogues and community centers and libraries.  It is not normal for state legislators to carry guns into the Senate and House chambers.  It is not normal to bring a gun to a baseball game and keep it in the glove compartment of a car, where it is likely to be stolen.

4. Finally, Debunk the “good guy with a gun” idea as the way to protect our public safety.  This should have been put to rest in February 2008, when an irate citizen stormed Kirkwood City Hall and shot seven people.  The first two people killed were trained, experienced police officers, “good guys with guns.”

Jewish teaching places an extraordinarily high value on human life.  We are taught that “whoever saves a single life, it is as if he saved an entire world.”  Working to curb gun violence gives each of us a chance to keep children safe and to speak out about what kind of society we want.   

Efforts to arm everyone in America and make weapons seem commonplace are not normal, they’re pathological.  We can, and must, do something about them.