Rights come with responsibilities
Editor of the Reformer:
The Violence Policy Center recently reported that in 2014 there were 21 states where gun deaths (suicide, homicide and accidental) exceeded motor vehicle deaths. Vermont is one of these states. In 2014 there were 69 gun deaths and 49 motor vehicle deaths. We've taken many measures to reduce the likelihood of motor vehicle deaths at both state and federal levels — drivers need to be licensed, seat belts are required, speeds are limited, police enforce DUI and other laws and the vehicles themselves are required by federal regulations to be much safer than they used to be.
Perhaps this same public health approach could be applied to gun safety. For example, we could require that all gun purchasers show proof of having passed an NRA or other approved gun safety course before being allowed to purchase a gun. We could disallow those who should not have guns (violent felons, those adjudicated to be mentally ill and a threat to themselves and others, domestic abusers) just as we disallow repeat DUI offenders from driving. This could be accomplished through a true universal background check law which requires background checks on all gun sales and closes the Internet loophole. We require insurance for those who drive on our roads, why not require the same of those who in Vermont today can legally walk down the street or drive their car with a loaded lethal weapon on their hip, over their shoulder or under their coat.
I hear a lot about gun rights, but all rights come with responsibilities. Gun owners need to take responsibility for their weapons. There are practices they themselves can manage like keeping guns unloaded and in gun safes where children, teens and thieves can't access them and using trigger locks to prevent accidental discharge. There are others which will require public health and safety measures to help bring down the annual gun death rate in Vermont. It's just common sense.