February 2013 - Members of Women's Voices have voted to approve a position paper on gun violence and gun control.
Here is what we believe:
Members of Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice strongly support current efforts by President Barack Obama and various groups, states, and legislators to control the quantity and types of guns available in the United States. To use the words of President Obama in his speech after the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, in December 2012, we are not prepared to say we are powerless and that such violence visited on our children year after year is somehow the price of our freedom.
Although we approve of New York's recent gun legislation, as well as the efforts of other state legislators, we believe it is time for federal gun laws. Excessive guns are contributing to violence that is a national public health crisis:
Each year in the United States there are approximately 30,000 firearm-related homicides and suicides. (www.whitehouse.gov)
There have been at least 62 mass shootings in the United States in the past 30 years (7 in 2012 alone). "www.motherjones.com, "The NRA Myth of Arming the Good Guys", Mark Follman, December 28, 2012)
The current maze of state gun statutes undercuts the laws of states with tough restrictions when guns come in from states with weak laws. ("St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Maze of gun laws in US hurts gun control efforts," Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press, January 26, 2013.)
Data and research funding on gun violence are necessary to determine the causes of gun violence and hold the firearms industry accountable for their role in the epidemic.
We therefore support the president's gun control proposals, which were released January 16, 2013.
Read the president's full proposal - "Now Is the Time."
This comprehensive plan includes the following provisions:
Requires background checks for all gun sales
Strengthens the background check system for gun sales
Passes a stronger ban on assault weapons
Limits ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
Takes armor-piercing bullets off the streets
Gives law-enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime
Ends the freeze on gun violence research
Makes schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans, and more nurturing school climates
Provides for coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people
Forbids straw gun purchases
Removes restrictions on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that authorize the importation of weapons at least 50 years old
Protects doctors who discuss safe firearms with their patients
In addition to the reasons stated above, our position is based on the following beliefs:
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, written at a time when today's high-power weapons could not be anticipated, does not protect the use of assault weapons nor prevent government from regulating sales of firearms.
Proposals that citizens should carry guns to protect themselves against mass shooters are ill-conceived. No mass shootings have been stopped by armed citizens. Likewise, we believe certain efforts to bring more guns into schools, such as arming teachers, are not advisable because of the danger of introducing loaded weapons near children and insufficiently trained adults. An armed sheriff's deputy at Columbine and a security force at Virginia Tech did not stop slaughters at those schools. (www.motherjones.com, Mark Follman) And in a recent incident in New York innocent bystanders were mistakenly shot by trained police officers aiming at an armed man.
Strong pressure from the citizens of the United States will be essential in getting legislators to pass comprehensive gun control legislation. Citizens must speak out to counter the influence of organizations such as the National Rifle Association, which spent nearly $19 million trying to influence the 2012 elections-in addition to more than $3 million to lobby the federal government on firearms-related legislation in 2012. (www.huffingtonpost.com, "NRA Lobbying Expenses Topped $3 Million in 2012, Christina Wilkie, January 22, 2013.)
We also approve of the New York Safe Act, passed January 15, 2013, especially these provisions:
Requires that assault weapons must be registered and recertified every 5 years
Limits high-capacity magazines to 7 rounds
Requires a state background check for ammunition sales and transmission of a record of the sale to the state police
Bans direct internet sales of ammunition
Requires background checks for all gun transfers between private parties (except immediate family members)
Prior Position - March 2010
Members of Women's Voices are concerned about access to guns, concealed weapons and family violence exacerbated by guns.
First, who should have access to guns? Certainly, police should never have to worry about being out-gunned by more heavily armed citizens. In addition, our military, FBI and CIA keep us safe and secure by their ability to carry weapons. But guns and ammunition do not belong in the hands of children who often don't understand the gun's potential for true harm. In between authorities who need guns and children who find guns fascinating is a confusing area: who actually needs a gun, and who simply wants one.
The National Rifle Association has used enormous political power to oppose gun restrictions in all circumstances. Members of Women's Voices believe there are common-sense ways to control guns. One good way might be to have a central listing of all guns matched to their owners, and numbered ammunition.
Second, who should carry concealed weapons, where should they be allowed to carry them, and why would they need to conceal them? Missouri currently allows citizens over age 23 to carry concealed weapons into various businesses and public places. Some State Legislators want to lower this age to 21. While this seems a harmless change, those extra two years of maturity may mean the difference between life and death for some. Under legislation that actually passed in the Missouri House in 2009, people with permits to carry concealed weapons could bring guns onto public college campuses (a proposal roundly condemned by most college administrators).
Third, family violence tends to increase during economic downturns. Adding guns to precarious family situations endangers the weakest in those families. While the second amendment supports the right of individuals to own guns, we believe that it is the duty of the gun owner to keep guns locked, ammunition and guns separated in the home, and both out of children's reach.
For further study: The Center for Gun Policy and Research is dedicated to reducing gun-related injuries and deaths through the application of a public health perspective and sound research into the issue of gun violence prevention. It proposes ideas such as "personalized" guns which can only be operated by the owner. Investigation into the cause and prevention of gun injuries and fatalities by this respected group provides an interesting follow up study.
Women's Voices encourages all of its members to contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to close the gun show "loophole" (which allows anyone to buy a gun). We believe our national policy should be "no background check, no gun, no excuses."