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Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.
I don’t want to write another column on gun violence. I really don’t. But this week began with a mass shooting at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky. Since then, there have been shootings at a community college (also in Louisville), a funeral home, and at homes in Maine.
Still, we are told by countless people, most of them conservative, that there is nothing we can do about this violence.
Perhaps the most heartless justification for inaction on gun violence came from conservative talk show host Charlie Kirk, a leader of young conservatives. Although his conclusions are absurd, he said out loud what many lawmakers have suggested when they say that gun violence can’t be stopped.
“I think it’s worth [it] to have a cost of, unfortunately, some gun deaths every single year so that we can have the Second Amendment to protect our other God-given rights,” he said during a TurningPoint USA faith event last week. “That is a prudent deal. It is rational.”
No, it is not rational. It is offensive.
It is not prudent to allow thousands of Americans to be slaughtered every year, to allow thousands more to violently end their own lives, because of a sentence written nearly 250 years ago. Part of a sentence actually because Kirk and many other self-proclaimed 2nd Amendment lovers are not part of “a well regulated Militia.”
Kirk doubled down on this ridiculous thinking in his show on Monday, as he talked about the “cost of liberty.” For example, he said, because we have cars, there are thousands of auto fatalities a year. Because we have planes, there are plane crashes. Because we have pools, children drown in them.
And, people choke on peanuts because we are free to eat peanuts, he said.
Here’s the thing: Cars and drivers are heavily regulated in the U.S. You have to have a license to drive a car and you have to pass tests to get one. You have to have insurance and register your car (and pay fees and excise tax) every year. There are limits on how fast you can go and laws against drunk driving. In most states, you are required to wear a seatbelt. Children need to be in car seats to keep them safe. Carmakers continually add safety features to their products and every year laws are passed in an effort to make driving safer.
These regulations and technological advances have worked. The death rate from vehicle crashes in the U.S. has declined significantly in recent decades, although there have been slight annual increases in the last couple years.
Ditto with planes. The number of commercial plane crashes has plummeted in recent decades as safety measures have been implemented and technology has been improved. Same with civilian or general aviation.
While childhood drownings remain too high, there are safety requirements in homeowner’s insurance policies if you have a pool at home.
And, although not the same as choking on peanuts, many schools restrict or even ban peanuts and peanut butter to protect children who have peanut allergies.
Sure, none of these activities is covered by the Second Amendment. But, in each instance, Americans cared that their family members, neighbors or people they didn’t even know were dying and took action to lessen the risk.
Therefore, it defies logic to suggest that similar steps to improve safety wouldn’t make a difference when it comes to gun violence. No person’s life should be the price paid for political grandstanding and inaction on gun violence.
Instead of listening to those who are long on excuses and short on empathy, lawmakers who oppose common-sense restrictions on firearms should listen to people like Jason Smith, a doctor in Louisville who sees first hand the devastating impacts shootings have on human beings.
“For 15 years, I’ve cared for victims of violence and gunshot wounds. And people say, ‘I’m tired,’ but I’ll be honest, it’s more than tired. I’m weary,” Smith, the chief medical officer at University of Louisville Health, where victims of Monday’s bank shooting were taken, said at a press conference on Tuesday. Five people, all executives at the Old National Bank, were killed on Monday in Louisville. Eight people, including two police officers, were injured.
“Because you just can’t keep seeing these lives lost,” he said. “You can’t keep seeing all the people with these horrific injuries coming through the door without doing something to try and help.”
“I’m a doctor. I don’t know what the answer is,” Smith added. “But to everyone who helps make policy both state and federal, I would simply ask you to do something because doing nothing, which is what we’ve been doing, is not working.”
Follow the doctor’s orders: Do something.