It’s only weeks since the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas, and already the national conversation about how to prevent these tragedies is subsiding. We knew before the horrific shooting that America’s gun violence problem is not normal. Our gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other developed nations. And, more than 90 people die from gun violence every single day in this country.
Yet, elected officials like Rep. Knute Buehler continue to do nothing and insist that gun violence prevention laws aren’t effective. As someone who has been affected by gun violence, I know that strong gun violence prevention laws do make a difference. That’s why I joined the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for gun safety measures.
Almost 30 years ago, one of my good friends shot and killed himself with a gun. I, along with others, knew he suffered from depression and might be a danger to himself. There were many efforts to get him the help he needed. But there was no legal course of action to make sure he didn’t have access to his gun. It was in his memory that I fiercely campaigned for the passage of Senate Bill 719, Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Order, that Gov. Kate Brown signed into law this year. Senate Bill 719 allows courts to temporarily prohibit a person from having a gun if law enforcement or immediate family members show that he or she poses a danger of suicide or violence against others.
These types of laws have been shown to save lives by reducing firearm suicides, and it’s easy to see how they could prevent mass shootings as well. In fact, research has found that over 40 percent of mass shooters exhibited red flags indicating they posed a risk to themselves or others in advance of the shooting.
Other behaviors have also been linked to gun violence, like a history of domestic violence. It is a sad reality that one out of every three American women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The presence of a gun in that situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. And again, research has found that 54 percent of mass shootings — which result in four or more deaths, excluding the shooter — are related to domestic or family violence.
There is no reason that any person convicted of domestic violence should have access to a gun. But, a loophole in Oregon’s current law generally does not prohibit gun possession by abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers. If a woman files a domestic abuse restraining order against her boyfriend — or her boyfriend is convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime — the abuser can usually still legally buy a gun. The result is that we’re forced to experience the loss of our friends to gun violence. Is that the kind of country we want to live in? Of course not.
Instead of simply regurgitating tired talking points used by the National Rifle Association’s extreme leadership that “gun laws don’t work,” and standing in the way of progress on reducing gun violence, Buehler should collaborate with his colleagues in the Oregon Legislature and close these dangerous loopholes.
It is time for our lawmakers at all levels of government to stop making excuses and start taking action to save lives from gun violence in our country.
— Zandra Brant lives in Bend and is a volunteer with the Oregon chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.