Four weeks after the shooting at Florida’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, we are still talking about how to reduce gun violence in the United States. This is a good thing. So often the conversation has ended a few weeks after the most recent horrific mass shooting. 

The high school survivors have become outspoken leaders in the movement to create common sense gun laws that don’t infringe on gun owners’ rights to bear arms responsibly and don’t infringe on the public’s right to live without fear of being shot at school, the movie theater, a concert, etc. It’s a complex problem that will require many and varied solutions.

Closer to home, the Ohio General Assembly has only been interested in passing laws that weaken Ohio’s already weak gun laws and Ohioans are paying the price with their lives. Ohio’s gun violence rate is higher than the national average, and while violent crime in general is down nationwide, gun violence deaths are up. Looking at the statistics on how gun violence, as a whole, affects America’s kids alone, is horrifying.

• Nineteen children are shot on an average day in the U.S., according to a July paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 7,000 kids under 18 each year and 1,300 die. 

• A child dies in an accidental shooting every week.

• The U.S. has far more child gun deaths than any other high-income nation.

And the Ohio Legislature has 11 bills pending that would further weaken our laws  (HB 79, 142, 180, 201, 228, 233, 253, 310, 373 and SB 122, 208) 

What can Ohioans do to help reverse this trend? 

Let’s do what 97 percent to 99 percent of Americans would like to see: pass common-sense background checks on private gun sales. These laws have been shown to be one of the most effective laws states can pass to reduce gun violence. Nineteen states have already passed expanded background checks and two have done it by ballot initiative: Washington in 2014 and Nevada in 2016. As Brent Larkin wrote in The Plain Dealer, “We need a ballot issue to end the rule of guns in Ohio.” 

There is already a group working to make this happen. Join us.

Susan Reis of Shaker Heights is a board member of Ohioans for Gun Safety. She is a member of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike.

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