Letter: Gun Safety Is a Public Health Issue

To the Editor:

It was encouraging to finally hear President Obama talk about the need for gun safety. More Americans are victims of gun violence (homicides and suicides) annually than have been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is not about taking away someone’s right to own a gun for legitimate reasons — it is a public health issue that begs to be addressed.

We do need to improve ways to identify individuals at risk of becoming violent, but attempts to rationalize the mass murderers’ intentions serve as a distraction to the discussion. We need to confront this issue as we do in preventing AIDS — through universal precautions. We need to assume that all of us are potentially “certifiably crazy.” We then need to pass universal laws to reduce the risk of guns being purchased by unstable individuals. We need background checks for all gun sales, even those at gun shows.

We need to reject the drivel that flows from the National Rifle Association — i.e., “guns don’t kill people.” I dare say that if Adam Lanza hadn’t had access to assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols, but instead was wielding a knife, he wouldn’t have gotten past the school door.

Despite our best intentions, no law will be able to eliminate every deranged individual from carrying out a homicide. What we are talking about is risk reduction.

We need to contact not only our federal legislators to demand gun safety reform, but also our Vermont legislators. Vermont is not immune from experiencing a Newtown-type massacre in the future. In fact, Vermont has lax gun-safety laws.

If we don’t enact meaningful legal reforms, we will all carry some responsibility for future victims’ deaths. Yes, we are our brothers’ keepers.

Paul Manganiello