Letter to the Editor: Life, Liberty and Gun Sense

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Seven weeks have passed since the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida sparked a national conversation about community safety. In Massachusetts, we are lucky. Our state is one of the safest, with 3.5 gun deaths per 100,000, but a gap in our laws could enable a Parkland style shooting here leading representatives in the Massachusetts State House to consider House Bill 3610 enacting Extreme Risk Protective Orders or ERPO. This bill, which must be acted on before April 15, enables the removal of weapons from individuals deemed dangerous to themselves or to others and is a critical way to reduce gun violence.

From its earliest days, the United States has held itself as a special place, a kind place, where people come to thrive. Our founding documents seek to "promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," and these are words we value as part of our national character. But as I tell my students, words must be backed by action, and currently, our nation is not ensuring domestic tranquility or securing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Our children's daily life includes traumatizing lock down drills due to increased school shootings, exercises that are only part of the impact of gun violence in our communities. American women are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed due to domestic violence than women in other economically advanced nations, and though we pride ourselves on being the home of the brave, we are also the land of the fearful. We lead the world not in education, healthcare, or upward mobility, but in gun deaths, by a long shot. We are statistically more likely to be killed by guns than by drowning, fire and smoke, stabbing, choking on food, airplane crashes, animal attacks, and natural disasters combined. Instead of striving for change, some want to normalize gun exposure by increasing the number of armed individuals rather than enacting sensible legislation aimed at reducing access to weapons by dangerous people. Too often, in the wake of a traumatic event, family members recount warning signals and how they were helpless to prevent impending carnage. This bill establishes a fair way for family and household members to initiate a due process for the removal of weapons, which not only reduces the risk of a mass shooting, but also prevents domestic tragedies and suicides.

As a teacher, wife of a professor, mother of a preschooler, teacher's daughter, I urge our state representatives to pass this legislation to make our schools, neighborhoods, and public spaces safer, to prevent suicides, and to reduce the fear faced by domestic abuse victims. I also urge concerned citizens to join one of the many local organizations working to get reasonable gun legislation passed to provide for the general welfare and the common defense, so we are all at liberty to pursue happiness, without fear.

Margaret Zamos-Monteith is a Jamaica Plain resident.