It’s time to talk about gun laws

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK - By Mark Kelly and Gabby Gif­fords

SUN­DAY night started out as a beau­ti­ful even­ing in Las Ve­gas, with coun­try mu­sic in the air and the lights of the Strip min­gling with stars. At least 58 peo­ple lost their lives at such a uniquely Amer­i­can scene, and nearly 500 were in­jured. Thou­sands more will fight emo­tional scars, and tens of thou­sands will grieve and ques­tion along with them. The phe­nom­e­non of the mass shoot­ing — and the po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis that fol­lows us — is sadly also a uniquely Amer­i­can scene. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Amer­i­cans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than peo­ple in other de­vel­oped na­tions. Over 100,000 peo­ple are shot each year, 33,000 of those fa­tally. We can of­fer thoughts and prayers and move on through life numb to these losses. We can ac­cept this galling real­ity. We can as­sume that other peo­ple — like my wife, for­mer con­gress­woman Gabrielle Gif­fords — will pay the price for our sta­tus quo. We can ac­cept the enor­mous so­cial, moral and eco­nomic cost im­posed on this coun­try by ac­cept­ing gun vi­o­lence as sim­ply the cost of liv­ing in Amer­ica.

Or we can choose courage in­stead of cow­ardice. I flew com­bat mis­sions in Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm, or­bited Earth 854 times as a NASA as­tro­naut and wake up ev­ery morn­ing next to Gabby, the tough­est hu­man I’ve ever met. I choose courage ev­ery time. So what do we do?

First, we have to rec­og­nize just how en­trenched the prob­lem is. In the last few weeks, Congress was ac­tu­ally pur­su­ing looser gun laws — mak­ing

Ethan Miller / Getty Im­ages

A Las Ve­gas Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice of­fi­cer goes about his du­ties in the af­ter­math of the mass shoot­ing last Sun­day. Amer­i­cans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than peo­ple in other de­vel­oped na­tions.

Su­san Walsh / Associated Press

For­mer U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords, a vic­tim of gun vi­o­lence, joined her hus­band, Mark Kelly, to speak out against it last week on Capi­tol Hill.

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