Gun Violence Prevention - has 2 parts

Gun violence prevention requires both action for gun safety and action for the people who use gunsMHA_Award_ME_and_Debbie_Plotnik_2019-0806.jpg

Action for gun safety must include background checks, careful red flag laws, more gun safety classes,  and more. (See below) 

Action for the people who use guns is about behavioral changes.  We want to stop people from being violent.  Full stop.  Whether they use guns, sticks, knives  or any other deadly weapon, we can do more to stop their violent intentions.  Teaching coping skills and healthy relationship skills to high school students probably will not stop homicides by drug cartels, but it certainly can reduce domestic violence.  
Preventing suicides -- by firearm or any method --  can be improved with better access to mental health and substance use treatment. 

  I've just returned from the NCSL Summit, National Conference of State Legislatures 2019 convention, where I've learned some useful approaches.  


At the event, I was honored by Mental Health America as a Champion for Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment.  It is recognition of the work that Neighbors Council and I have done to prevent suicide and improve access to mental health treatment in Arizona.  Currently we are working on a big project to improve access to counselors, psychologists and all forms of mental health and behavioral health treatment.  

You can help!  We are gathering stories to develop data about the problems of access to care in Arizona.  

Have you,  or do you know somebody who was denied treatment or who cannot find a provider?   Please CLICK HERE to help.  You will be anonymous on the survey. 

The Arizona Connection to Mass Shootings:
In El Paso, Madison McGuire was a little girl who was at that Walmart selling juice as a fundraiser so her soccer team could come to Arizona for a tournament.  Her teammates and ...

Her teammates and ...

their parents danced and smiled together as they sold snacks.  When the shooting started, some of the parents got all of the children out of harm's way.  Four of the parents were among the 25 wounded.  Javier, a 15-year-old boy who was in line at the bank with his uncle, was the youngest of those who were killed.   

We can develop laws that do both:  

  • Protect our children and loved ones from violent tragedies.
  • Preserve the rights of people to use firearms for protection and for sport. 

We must.  

Mass shootings in public places scare us.  It could happen to anybody, any time.  We are brought to tears reading about these tragedies, time and again.  

I am working on both goals:  

  1. Stop mass shootings
  2. Stop shootings in the form of accidents, suicides, and homicides. 

They both boil down to preventing people from doing violent things, and that requires gun safety and as well as behavioral changes

Action For Gun Safety: 

Safe Harbors:  Mental Health America has a program to train retailers to be a safe harbor.  The retailers and firearm owners choose to be a part of the program voluntarily. Sometimes, people know they are feeling vulnerable and thinking about suicide.  It is smart in those times to choose to remove firearms from one's home.  People want to do that.  Suicide is an impulsive act.  When the means to suicide is restricted, people live. Suicide attempts by firearm almost always end in death.  With this safe harbor program, people can choose to ask the retailer that sells firearms --and is participating in the program  -- to temporarily store their firearms, away from themselves. 

Red Flag Laws:  or ERPO,  or STOP(Severe Threat Order of Protection)  The intention is that when a person is dangerous,  appropriate others can have their guns temporarily moved out of harm's way.  Arizona has some laws in place for judges and police to listen to evidence and temporarily remove firearms from a person if they are ruled to be dangerous to self or others.  However, those laws have not worked in many cases that ended in deaths. We need to fix those loopholes and develop stronger laws and enforcement to protect people.  These laws are especially important for domestic violence victims,  as well as preventing mass shootings. 

Background Checks:  Every purchase.  Every time.  We must close the gun show loophole.  Red Flag laws have bipartisan support.  But they will not work if a domestic abuser's guns are taken from his home and the next day he buys a gun at a gun show that required no background check.  

To prevent violence, we need to look at the data and connect it to the stories, so that our solutions really do work.   

Arizona Data:

  • 5 Mass shootings in 2019 so far in Arizona - shootings where more than 4 were shot  (Read about them here) 
  • 17% increase in firearm deaths from  2014 to 2017 (See CDC data
  • Ranked 18th worst for gun deaths per person in the state (#1 is the worst with the most deaths per person.) 
  • Of the 1,134 deaths by firearm in 2017,  441 were homicides. 


Very important things to understand:

* Mentally ill does not mean dangerous.  I've been told by mental health professionals that in fact,  most of the time when mentally ill people are involved in violence, they are the victims, not the perpetrators.  

*  "Having firearms in the home imposes suicide risk."  Knowledge is power.  When more people understand this connection, they can protect their children and family members even better.   "Year after year, several thousand more Americans die by suicide in states with higher than average household firearm ownership compared with states with lower than average firearm ownership." (Read research here.) 

* Americans own more guns per person than any other country.  USA: 120 guns per 100 people.   Next country:  Yemen with 53 guns per 100 people.

* Gun-related suicides are eight times higher in the US than in other high-income nations.  (Read that report here)