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Gun Violence in the U.S. Threatens Our Children and Their Future

Americans are in the midst of a gun epidemic and it is killing our children. Just this week, two were killed at a high school graduation in Virginia. At the funeral of a 10-year-old girl, killed when a stray bullet from street gunfire went through the window of the car in which she was riding, shots were fired and more people died.

A Christian school was attacked just a few weeks ago. The nation is only one year from the horror in Uvalde that murdered 19 children and two teachers.

For the first time in history, it isn’t childhood cancer or polio, or poisoning, or car accidents, that is the leading cause of children age 19 and below. It is guns. Or more accurately the proliferation of guns, a growing gun culture, and the cultural tolerance of more and more violence.

According to Statistica, the number one leading cause of death of children ages one to 19 is firearms.

Number of deaths among children and adolescents aged one to 19 years old in the United States in 2020, by cause, Source Statistica.

Along with a rise in gun-related deaths, the United States has been experiencing an overall increase in gun violence, including mass shootings, school shootings, and gun homicides.

That rise in U.S. gun violence isn’t surprising, given the avalanche of gun sales, with the unit sales for firearms reaching a new high in recent years. In 2022,  according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, there are about 393 million privately owned firearms in the US. In other words, 120 guns for every 100 Americans. That’s more than any other country in the world by far.

In Richmond Virginia, this week, a stepfather and his stepson — a  new graduate still in his graduation cap and gown — were shot and killed. “I’m tired of our kids getting shot, and I’m asking for this to stop. Just stop,” said Superintendent of the Richmond Public Schools Jason Kamras, his voice shaking with emotion.

…and the mass shootings just keep proliferating.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of June 7, 2023 there have already been 18,435 deaths by gun in the U.S. and 279 mass shootings — more than there have been days in the year. Some 118 children have been killed by guns, and 282 have been injured.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) which used to be run by sane human beings who promoted gun safety training prior to hunting seasons now seems bent on arming every last American with an AR-15, or outfitting them with a ghost gun. Weapons of war that when aimed at children in mass shootings rip their bodies into pieces, liquefying their organs; so much flotsam and jetsam to be identified by their pink sneakers or striped nail polish.

Legislation to Prevent Gun Violence, Crack Down on Ghost Guns Becomes Law

Colorado has made a concerted effort to confront the rising tide of guns in America. Just last Friday, Governor Jared Polis signed into law SB23-279. It will prohibit the possession, sale, or transfer of unserialized firearms, frames, and receivers, preventing further gun violence and cracking down on “ghost guns” into law.

SB23-279 was sponsored by Senators Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Chris Hansen, D-Denver, and Representatives Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, and Junie Joseph, D-Boulder. It prohibits the possession, sale, or transfer of an unserialized firearm, frame or receiver. It also prohibits manufacturing a frame or receiver, unless done by a federally licensed firearm manufacturer, including via a 3D printer.

Ghost guns are unregulated, untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home, often through do-it-yourself (DIY) kits or downloadable blueprints. They are designed to avoid all gun laws, and are available to purchase without a background check, serial number, sale record, or other protections.

“Ghost guns are untraceable, unserialized weapons that anyone can make or assemble in their own home – and they’re extremely dangerous,” said Fields. “We worked hard this session to make Colorado safer and prevent gun violence, and this new law is a big step towards reaching that goal. I’m proud to champion this legislation that will prevent ghost guns from causing further violence in our communities and create a safer Colorado for us all.”

“Right now it’s far too easy for young people in Colorado and others who shouldn’t possess firearms to access them, and ghost guns are a huge part of that problem,” said Hansen. “Nearly anyone can order the parts or have them 3D printed, and within minutes have access to a fully functional, untraceable firearm. By cracking down on ghost guns, we will get these dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, reducing gun violence and increasing safety across our state.”

Under the bill, if an individual has an unserialized firearm, frame, or receiver, they have until January 1, 2024 to have it serialized. It also prohibits the possession of a “machine gun conversion device” which turns a firearm into a machine gun and imposes the same penalties as in current law for possessing a machine gun.

This is the latest of several gun regulations passed into law in Colorado in the past year. New legislation has included establishing a three-day waiting period for the purchase of a gun, raising the legal age to own a gun to 21, and strengthening the rights of those who are victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers. In the past few years, Colorado has also passed what are known as “red flag” laws, to keep guns out of the hands of individuals threatening to do harm to themselves and others, then this past spring strengthened them.

As the days of the year march onward, so do the gun deaths. The question becomes — when will the numbers be enough to spur national political leaders to stop this gun madness? Because of course, they can — if they would choose to do so. This isn’t just a political issue — it’s a public safety issue and cowardness has no place in making a democracy safe for its people.

Featured image: As was their right in a democracy, Salida Students and their teachers from the Salida Montessori Charter School marched down F Street in 2018, chanting “No more gun violence”, in support of the nationwide student protest against gun violence. They were met with threatening, adult counter-protestors who harassed them, including reportedly, one evangelical pastor.  Witnessing the harassment; several concerned citizens who had taken positions on the street corners to observe.  (photo by Jan Wondra).