With better gun laws, fewer people die.


A brain teaser book I pull out at small gatherings has a question that asks, “If you could invent something that would be good for humanity overall, but also kill hundreds of thousands of people over time, would you?”

Inevitably, my guests turn to talk of cars and motorcycles but no one ever mentions guns which, unlike cars, were made for the explicit purpose of killing.

I’ve written before about my personal connection to gun violence but only once in decades because that’s the only time I could bear to wade into how gun violence has shaped me as a person. Those waters are deep and murky.

Yet in recent years it happened again and again and again when a close friend and two acquaintances died by suicide. I feel like a mound of bread dough getting punched over and over, deflated. I know I am not alone.

The problem with guns is not that you can own one, it’s that they are easier to get than mental health care.

Another problem with guns – and oh, there are so many – is that some people tend to think of gun violence as something that happens “over there.” These are people who, either by privilege or luck, have managed to avoid the aftershocks of gun violence.

Yet gun deaths keep happening, like a time bomb in reverse, as the numbers inch up each day.

It’s like we are trapped in some sort of warped Dr. Seuss book where it’s only the “Sneetches over thar” that are affected by gun violence. “We Sneetches,” we smugly think to ourselves, “are immune.”

While federal laws help prevent gun violence nationwide the federal system is much too weak overall — for example, failing to require background checks on all gun sales and giving special legal immunity to the gun industry.

Alabama policymakers should protect our citizens by filling the many gaps in federal law. Alabama citizens should vote for policymakers who care about protecting our families.

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on preventing gun violence, unveiled a new tool and website last week that shows the direct correlation between a state’s gun laws and the state’s rate of gun deaths. The tool shows that Alabama has the 4th highest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Alabama is listed as a “weak system” on the Everytown ranking. At least, as that oft-repeated refrain goes, we’re not a “national failure,” like Mississippi.

In Alabama in an average year 1,090 people die by guns with a rate of 22.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

Before you say, “That won’t happen to me or my family,” remember that gun deaths by suicide outrank other causes at 59%. The U.S. gun suicide rate is 10 times higher than that of other high income countries.

No one you know will commit suicide? I said that too. And then they did. No one ever says, “I knew he/she/they would commit suicide.” Never.

The new analysis shows that states with strong gun safety policies, such as background checks on all gun sales and extreme risk laws, have lower rates of gun violence while states with weaker gun laws (ahem, Alabama) have higher rates of gun violence.

When gun policies across the country are compared – looking at scores from every state on the strength of each gun law and comparing it with its rate of gun violence – in states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence.

With better laws, fewer people die. It’s that simple. Wake up, Alabama.

In cases of gun violence the problems are many and the answers are difficult to find, yet plenty of people smarter than me make a living figuring out how we can fix things. Alabama lawmakers need to listen to them.

Red State? Blue state? It doesn’t matter. Alabama is in a horrible state. Gun violence is not inherently political. It’s about the human suffering of our fellow Alabamians.

You don’t think gun violence will influence you in your lifetime? In Alabama, it’s more likely to than in 46 other states.

Sweet home, Alabama? Lord. It’s coming home to you.

If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal ideation, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal ideation, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Alabama Suicide Prevention and Resources Coalition.

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