A year ago in April, a UVA student nearly shot his neighbor, a UVA law student, when he accidentally fired his AK-47 through his wall and into the next apartment. Because the judge didn’t find enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn’t simply an accident and not a criminal act, charges were dismissed, but this frightening incident could easily have added to the growing number of victims of firearms.
Since the Newtown shootings in 2012, every day eight children in the U.S. die from guns, according to the Brady Campaign. In domestic homicides, a gun is the most commonly used weapon. From 2001 through 2012, the Center for American Progress says 6,410 women in the U.S. were murdered by an intimate partner using a gun, more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. And using Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, Mother Jones says more Americans have been shot to death in the past 25 years than have died in every war, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Law-abiding, responsible gun owners are not the problem,” says former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, herself a victim of gun violence. “The problem is that we have weak laws that let dangerous people get their hands on guns.” Gifford and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, support bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representative Peter King (R-NY) that would both protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights as well as make communities safer by expanding background checks on the Internet and at gun shows.
The National Rifle Association has lobbied to prevent gun safety laws even though a Johns Hopkins University survey reveals that 74 percent of NRA members favor a waiting period for the purchase of a handgun and more than 81 percent of Americans support limiting sales of military-style assault weapons. Further, the NRA has been successful in keeping a congressional 19-year prohibition on Centers for Disease Control studies of gun violence.
According to the medical journal Pediatrics, nearly 10,000 American children are killed or injured every year due to gun violence, most recently a 6-year-old shooting his 3-year-old brother October 17 in Chicago. The mortality rate from firearms in the U.S. is 10 times higher than rates in other wealthy nations, says Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
“The lives of American children are precious, they matter,” says Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Legislators need to stand up and say, regardless of the efforts of the gun lobby to protect their profits, we are going to protect our children.”
Now which candidates in November have the courage, the will and the moral outrage to act in the name of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and Umpqua Community College in Oregon?
Marjorie Siegel is a member of the Charlottesville Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, which is dedicated to reducing gun deaths and protecting human life.