Prevention of Gun Violence

On Thursday, June 28, 2018, a gunman took the lives of five members of the Annapolis Capital Gazette staff. One of those killed was Wendi Winters, a beloved, esteemed member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and a long-time committed UU. Taking action in Wendi’s honor would align with who she was.

We all want to take specific major action immediately in Maryland to respond to this horrible tragedy. Unfortunately, gun violence is a complex issue and requires many public policy and educational interventions. Maryland can do so much more if our elected officials are motivated. There are some sample statements on a separate sheet that to help you develop your personal reasons for why you want your elected officials to work with advocates before the Maryland General Assembly session in January to look at existing laws to see if they need to be strengthened and whether new ones need to be enacted. There are currently no major requests for action from MD advocacy groups.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Violence gave an A rating to the following states in this order:  CA, NJ, CT, MA, NY, MD and HI. Maryland could join five of these states in a coalition. According to the Boston’s NPR station WBUR, the states in the “States for Gun Safety” coalition will share information on people who have been disqualified from owning a gun. They also will coordinate on tracking and intercepting illegal guns. Republican Governor of Massachusetts Baker’s spokeswoman said the administration "will join the gun safety coalition to enhance the strong gun control measures already in place" in MA. She said "MA public safety officials are currently working with coalition members" on the plan's specific requirements.” The source for this information is www.wbur.org/news/2018/02/25/mass-gun-safety-coalition. Joining will enhance Maryland’s efforts to strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence.

Actions and Facts

Who Commits Mass Shooting? According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (www.csgv.org) 4% of interpersonal violence is attributable to mental illness alone. Decades of research have identified various behaviors that do indicate an elevated risk of violence. Past violent behavior is the best predictor of future violence, regardless of a diagnosis of mental illness, domestic violence, substance misuse, alcohol misuse, and illegal use of controlled substances, also increase the risk of violence. Most of the shooters were white males.

Some Data: In 2016 there were 707 (suicides: 251, homicides: 436) total firearm deaths by guns in MD. As of 6/28/18 there have been 154 mass shootings this year in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, of the 5,323 guns that law enforcement in MD recovered in 2016, almost half came from other states.

Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO Bill): Many have asked if the 2018 MD legislation (HB 1302), which went into effect October 1, 2018, would have been instrumental in preventing this tragedy. According to the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, yes if it had been in effect. Their response is: “law enforcement, blood relatives, spouses, dating partners, co-parents or legal guardians can file ‘red flag’ petitions. It has been reported that both the victim of the gunman’s harassment and staffers at the Capital Gazette met with police to voice concerns about the threats they were receiving. Had the new law been in effect, those officers would have been able to take that evidence to petition a judge for the temporary removal of the gunman’s firearms and prohibited him from future purchases. Maryland has been given an important tool in the ongoing battle to prevent gun violence. If used properly, it might prevent the next tragedy from even happening.” Check this site to learn about ERPO http://lawcenter.giffords.org/resources/factsheets/

The Conclusions and Relevance of a May 2108 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association were: “Strong state firearm policies were associated with lower suicide rates regardless of other states’ laws. Strong policies were associated with lower homicide rates, and strong interstate policies were also associated with lower homicide rates, where home state policies were permissive. Strengthening state firearm policies may prevent firearm suicide and homicide, with benefits that may extend beyond state lines.”

Who Are the Victims of Gun Violence in the U.S.? The October 1, 2017 Washington Post article has been updated as of June 29, 2018 to include Wendi Winters and her four co-workers from the Capital Gazette. The numbers for 2018 are: 154 shootings in which four or more people were killed by a lone shooter (two shooters in a few cases), 40 dead from mass shootings and 7,075 from gun related deaths. This compelling article can be found at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/mass-shootings-in-america/?utm_term=.f515af57857c

Value Statement
Related Policy or Information
Children should feel safe in their schools, free from shootings
Children should be protected from gun violence without arming teachers. Teachers should model nonviolence, not the use of force to protect their students.
Responsible gun owners should be allowed to keep their weapons.
As long as guns are kept away from children and others who should not have access, gun owners can keep and use their firarms for legitimate purposes, including hunting and self-protection.
Guns should be kept out of the hands of children, mentally ill people and those who would commit crimes with them
Background checks and a database of ineligible people should be maintained by law enforcement.
Law enforcement should have the tools to prevent gun violence.
Reasonable regulations should include background checks for any transfer of a firearm and establishment of a database to track stolen firearms and those used in crimes.
We want our communities to be safe
Inter-state trafficking in firearms should be addressed nationally since states cannot close their borders.
Victims of domestic violence should be protected from their abusers
This should include removing firearms from homes where abuse has taken place.
Gun violence is a major health problem and should be addressed as such.
Social scientists and health officials should be provided with adequate data to analyze and develop solutions.