Act on data to curb gun vi­o­lence

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY DAN HABER­MAN

It is long past time to have a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion about gun vi­o­lence in this coun­try. That said, a “se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion” isn’t enough. We need ac­tion.

Grow­ing up in the city of Detroit, go­ing to mid­dle school in the Cass Cor­ri­dor, my ex­pe­ri­ence around guns wasn’t a pos­i­tive one. Gangs, gun run­ners and the drug trade were my as­so­ci­a­tions with the gun is­sue.

As I’ve got­ten older and gained more life ex­pe­ri­ence, I un­der­stand that my ex­pe­ri­ence as a kid isn’t the full story of guns. I have friends who love the hunt and treat guns with great re­spect. As a husband, fa­ther and home­owner, I com­pletely un­der­stand the po­si­tion of the many re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers who choose to keep a weapon to pro­tect their homes and loved ones.

But let’s get this straight: that is not what we are dis­cussing right now. We have a deadly epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence in our coun­try, aided by the gun and ammo lobby and the elected of­fi­cials they own in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Some peo­ple say it’s too early to dis­cuss this, es­pe­cially af­ter an­other re­cent shoot­ing. But there have been myr­iad mass shoot­ings since Sandy Hook, and each time it was “too soon” to dis­cuss.

But “too soon” is a trick to en­sure we never have the con­ver­sa­tion. The truth is gun safety needs to be­come as ur­gent an is­sue as cut­ting taxes is to some. But Repub­li­cans in Congress are ig­nor­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans who de­mand gun safety mea­sures. These elected of­fi­cials are more in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing arms deal­ers and not our fam­i­lies. The only ac­tion they’ve taken is to block ev­ery sin­gle piece of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

Most de­press­ing is that they could stand up for us with­out fear­ing for their jobs be­cause there are con­crete steps they can take that are sup­port- ed by al­most all Amer­i­cans. Steps that might up­set the am­mu­ni­tion mak­ers who fund their cam­paigns, but not the Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who cast bal­lots.

For ex­am­ple, 94 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree we should have uni­ver­sal back­ground checks. That would save lives be­cause in states that have uni­ver­sal back­ground checks 47 per­cent fewer women are shot to death by do­mes­tic part­ners.

Amer­i­cans also over­whelm­ingly sup­port re­in­stat­ing the as­sault weapons ban, block­ing the sale of guns to abusers, block­ing sales to those on the ter­ror­ist watch list and elim­i­nat­ing the law that pro­hibits the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from spend­ing money on gun safety re­search.

Let’s make this a mat­ter of sci­ence, not pol­i­tics. Us­ing data, us­ing sci­en­tific re­search, we can find the best path to re­duce gun vi­o­lence while pro­tect­ing the rights of re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers across this na­tion. Ev­ery year we spend $240 mil­lion on traf­fic safety re­search and $233 mil­lion on food safety re­search, but we spend noth­ing on gun safety re­search. That’s ab­surd.

We de­serve a gov­ern­ment that’s both com­pe­tent and de­cent — a gov­ern­ment that works for all of us. Ig­nor­ing mas­sacres in our own back yards in order to please the CEOs of gun man­u­fac­tur­ers? That’s not com­pe­tent. Fight­ing to block any ac­tion to make our fam­i­lies safer just for the sake of keep­ing a job? That’s not de­cent. That’s not who we are as a na­tion.

We need to re­main fact-based with an eye on re­sults and not be de­terred by dis­trac­tions or fan­tasy. And we need to make it clear to our rep­re­sen­ta­tives that they an­swer to us. They must pro­tect our lives and our kids’ lives, not the prof­its of those who man­u­fac­ture and sell guns and am­mu­ni­tion. Dan Haber­man is a Demo­cratic can­di­date for Michi­gan’s

11th Con­gres­sional district.

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