Time for common sense gun safety

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By Sue Minter

Three dead and nine wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Fourteen dead and more than 20 wounded in San Bernardino, Calif. In less than one week.

Gun violence is a crisis in our country. It’s happening in our schools, our movie theaters, our workplaces, our community health centers, our places of worship. It is just common sense that we need to do something.

Vermont is not immune from gun violence. The tragic mass shooting in Barre this summer, where a state employee who works for Vermont’s most vulnerable children was shot and killed, along with three members of a family in Berlin, demonstrates this fact.

I do not accept that gun violence is inevitable. As Vermonters, we should be part of the solution to this national crisis. To continue the same policies and assume something will change is the most dangerous form of denial. To do nothing is irresponsible.

I support the right of Vermonters to own guns, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. I have deep respect for Vermont’s hunting heritage. I am proud of our state’s rich traditions. Responsible gun ownership is one of our traditions. It is time to strengthen this.

To help keep Vermonters safe, I want to expand our effort to keep guns out of the hands of known criminals and people deemed dangerously ill.

I am committed to requiring universal background checks for gun sales – including those that occur at gun shows, flea markets and private sales. Background checks are currently required for all gun sales at Vermont’s federally registered firearms dealers. The same standard should apply to all gun sales. And 85 percent of gun owners approve of universal background checks, according to the New York Times.

Background checks can save lives — especially of women. Guns play a tragic role in Vermont’s domestic violence epidemic. In September, the Violence Policy Center released data showing that Vermont has the eighth-highest rate of women murdered by men in the United States. Two-thirds of these women were shot to death. And more than half of domestic violence homicides in Vermont involve a gun.

In states that require a background check for private sales of handguns, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners.

Keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them is a common sense step to addressing the gun violence that we face in our state, and in this country. As President Ronald Reagan wrote in 1991 about the rising number of gun deaths, if tighter gun safety measures “were to result in a 10 or 15 percent reduction in those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

All the candidates for governor agree that strengthening Vermont’s economy will be our number one priority. But we will be called on to act on other pressing issues as we work to build Vermont’s economy. The horrific events in Colorado and California — and all the other places that we don’t hear about — remind us of this.

Vermonters can trust that I will work with them to grow jobs and improve their lives, and that includes supporting common sense gun safety measures.

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Sue Minter is a Democratic candidate for governor of Vermont.