Every time a gun-related tragedy occurs, the cry goes out to ban certain types of weapons, establish waiting periods or pass other gun legislation, but in the end, nothing ever really gets done.
For change to happen, it takes more than knee-jerk reactions and attempts at legislation. Whats needed is a societal course correction. We, as a state and nation, must figure out how to encourage more responsibility when it comes to owning firearms.
Peoples attitudes and behavior can change if they feel the pressure of public opinion. When family members, friends and neighbors become willing to speak out and make it clear that a communitys health is the most important value, then incidents of irresponsible behavior can be reduced. This has been proven with campaigns against drunken driving and smoking two other dangerous behaviors that are in decline precisely because a majority of people said enough.
So, lets be clear at the outset that there are two types of gun ownership: responsible and irresponsible. We dont know enough yet to say for certain whether the parent of the shooter at Reynolds High School could have done more to keep his guns away from his 15-year-old son. Such details will await completion of the police investigation.
We do believe, however, that suggestions for reducing the potential for gun deaths ought to be rationally discussed. It has been frustrating to hear the vitriolic reaction to a renewed proposal from state Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Southwest Portland Democrat, to make adults criminally liable for what happens with firearms obtained by children.
Burdick could have chosen her words better when she directly questioned whether the father of the Reynolds shooter had acted responsibly, but the idea behind her legislation is far, far from radical. Twenty-eight other states including deep-red, gun-rights states such as Mississippi, Texas and Georgia have some sort of Child Access Prevention law already on the books.
That puts Oregon in a minority of states that have failed to pass this most basic of gun-safety legislation. Not only has the Legislature not approved such a law, it hasnt even allowed a child-access bill to have a committee hearing where the pros and cons could be discussed and helpful amendments could be offered by all sides.
Child Access Prevention laws that have been proposed in Oregon dont require additional background checks or require registration of firearms. They dont require firearms safety training for anyone who purchases a firearm. They dont require that you lock your firearms up although we would think that would be common sense for any firearms owner.
Oregon critics of a Child Access Prevention law will point out that Multnomah County already has similar regulations on the books and that didnt stop the Reynolds shooting. That line of reasoning misses the point. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 7,500 children are admitted to hospitals each year due to a gunshot wound, with more than 500 children dying from these injuries.
This discussion isnt about stopping a single tragic incident its about making our communities safer and healthier for children. It seems as if the Legislature could at least have a conversation about how best to accomplish that goal. Thats where societal pressure must re-enter the picture. People should be capable of having reasoned debates about this issue and they also should convey to their legislators that they expect them to do the same.