We are saddened by the senseless deaths in Oregon yesterday. As we have been by previous mass shootings. As we are every day by the gun deaths, in singles and pairs, of people across this country.
When people die by violence, we mourn their lives cut short, we grieve with their families and loved ones, and we struggle alongside their communities, wrestling with the complex issues involved.
MainStream is a moderate organization, one dedicated to the principle that compromise is how we move forward. We have members who believe all guns should be outlawed. We have members who staunchly defend their Second Amendment rights. But we come together and work with each other to support reasonable policies that make our communities better.
This is how we move forward.
Unloaded, a gun can be a thing of beauty. Loaded, it becomes a lethal device, able to kill even in the hands of a small child. Able to kill repeatedly, from a distance, indiscriminately, accidentally, permanently.
We support reasonable gun safety legislation aimed at curbing the deadly effect of guns in our society, while preserving the Second Amendment right of law abiding, trained, responsible citizens to own and enjoy their guns.
Here are three simple goals every responsible Kansan can support.
Keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.
Enforce the laws already in place, and improve their effectiveness by making sure individuals barred from owning guns, because of criminal records or mental health judicial orders, are unable to buy a gun. Background checks must be improved, not eliminated, they are a quick and effective way to keep our communities safe. The Kansas State Rifle Association (KSRA) has actively lobbied against a bill that would extend background checks to private sales (though not within a family), which leaves a loophole for criminals and those who should not own a gun. The KSRA called closing this loophole a “diabolical measure.”
Protect the safety of gun owners and their families.
Training in the proper use and handling of a gun should be required of all gun owners, and proven by a state-issued license. Statistics show that individuals who own a gun are more likely to be injured or killed by a gun than those who do not. That needs to change. KSRA and the gun lobby successfully eliminated training and certification requirements for concealed carry in Kansas, while also making it easier to bring guns into public buildings and spaces. Hidden guns carried by untrained people? That does not make anyone safer.
Give our communities the power to keep themselves safe.
Kansas passed a law last year stripping cities of their right to manage their own gun safety statutes. Small towns understandably have different needs than big cities, but the leadership of the Kansas Legislature decided to impose their will without regard for local rights. We must reverse this, and let cities and law enforcement fight gun violence without the interference of big government.
Reasonable Kansans are not calling for a ban on gun sales, for taking our guns away, or for muzzling the NRA or the KSRA. We just want a return to common sense practices that had been in place since the wild west days in Dodge City.
Our leaders in the Kansas Legislature need to keep us safe. If they refuse, if they listen instead to the vacations and gun junkets and promises of the gun lobby, it may be time to require it of them.
Remember to vote in 2016.