A back-to-school res­o­lu­tion

Par­ents need to pres­sure Congress to keep kids safe from guns

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Jen Pauliuko­nis Jen Pauliuko­nis is pres­i­dent of Mary­lan­ders to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence (mdpgv.org). Her email is jen@mdpgv.org.

As my fam­ily goes through our back-to-school rit­u­als — buy­ing school sup­plies, pack­ing lunches, tak­ing first-day-of-school pic­tures — my ex­cite­ment is tem­pered with thoughts of the 20 stu­dents and six ed­u­ca­tors killed al­most four years ago in New­town, Conn.

My son starts first grade at our lo­cal el­e­men­tary school this year. My son is the same age as those kids. I amthe same par­ent as those par­ents. While I have no con­nec­tion at all with Con­necti­cut or the fam­i­lies suf­fer­ing there, that day haunts me. It haunts par­ents all across the coun­try.

It’s not only the ter­ror of that day that haunts me. It’s the fact that since 2012, our Congress has done noth­ing to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing again. Our na­tional lead­ers have failed to pass the most ba­sic gun vi­o­lence preven­tion mea­sures. My free­dom to send my chil­dren off to school with­out fear has been stolen by these lead­ers who will sac­ri­fice my child’s safety for a good rat­ing from the NRA.

We need real so­lu­tions in Congress that will pro­tect our fam­i­lies and chil­dren. Our lead­ers need to pass hand­gun pur­chaser li­cens­ing, or per­mit-to-pur­chase laws, re­quir­ing buy­ers to qual­ify for a li­cense by pass­ing a fin­ger­print-based back­ground check and tak­ing a gun safety course. The over­whelm­ing amount of gun vi­o­lence is per­pe­trated with a hand­gun, and we must de­vise a sen­si­ble na­tional sys­tem to pre­vent dan­ger­ous peo­ple from gain­ing ac­cess to a gun. Li­cens­ing com­bined with back­ground checks has shown dra­matic re­duc­tions in both homi­cides and sui­cides.

Our lead­ers also need to re­new the as­sault weapons ban and lim­i­ta­tion on high-ca­pac­ity am­mu­ni­tion mag­a­zines. These weapons of war make it way too easy for some­one in­tent on do­ing harm to kill as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble as quickly as pos­si­ble. While mass shoot­ings are only a small mi­nor­ity of gun deaths in this coun­try, the car­nage that sur­rounds these types of firearms up­ends en­tire fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties.

Mary­land lead­ers have been work­ing to­ward so­lu­tions to re­duce gun vi­o­lence for years, cul­mi­nat­ing in the pas­sage of the Firearms Safety Act of 2013, which in­cludes both the hand­gun pur­chaser li­cens­ing and an as­sault weapons ban. The Baltimore Po­lice De­part­ment is work­ing with the Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Gun Pol­icy and Re­search to find en­force­ment strate­gies that will keep dan­ger­ous firearms off the streets. Baltimore can­not do this alone. Mary­land can­not do this alone. Mary­land is not an is­land. We need sen­si­ble gun vi­o­lence preven­tion bills passed at a na­tional level to pre­vent guns traf­ficked from other states from bring­ing death and in­jury to our streets.

We must stand up and de­mand from Congress what has been stolen from us: our safety and our free­dom to send our kids to school with­out fear. We­must work to­gether to make sure no par­ent has to suf­fer the loss of another child to gun vi­o­lence.

In­stead of a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion, our lead­ers need to make a back-to-school res­o­lu­tion to keep our schools and com­mu­ni­ties safe from gun vi­o­lence. As a mother, I re­solve to vote only for can­di­dates com­mit­ted to pri­or­i­tize se­ri­ous ef­forts to re­duce gun vi­o­lence.

MARK LENNI­HAN/AP

The new Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary, built to re­place the site of a 2012 mass shoot­ing, opened this week.

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