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Our View: The time has come for gun violence prevention

On Feb. 16, the Colorado General Assembly is expected to reconvene for the remainder of its 2021 legislative session. Soon to be on the agenda are three gun violence prevention bills.

Collectively, they represent the decidedly American value of personal responsibility.

Let’s get one thing straight: We are not opposed to guns. Guns are part of Western American culture, these days primarily used for hunting, but also kept for personal safety, livestock protection, sport shooting and other reasons.

But 846 people died from firearms in Colorado in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is time for gun safety to take precedence over unfounded fears that any gun law is a slippery slope. Our right to bear arms is secure. Passing laws to prevent gun violence won’t threaten that.

The three very moderate measures that will be introduced are a mandatory waiting period for buying a gun; a requirement to store guns safely when they are not under the direct control of an adult; and a requirement to report the loss or theft of a firearm within five days of discovering its disappearance.

Studies have shown that imposed waiting periods before buyers take possession of firearms reduces homicides by as much as 17%. Gun suicides are reduced by 7-11% by a waiting period.

Waiting allows people with violent intentions toward others or themselves to cool off, often preventing deadly gun violence.

Safe storage of guns is a no-brainer. Children and teens should not be able to access guns without adult supervision. A 2018 study by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that nearly half of gun owners surveyed don’t safely store their weapons.

Eighty percent of gun suicide victims 17 or younger used a firearm belonging to a family member and most guns used in school shootings also come from family members.

A study reported in JAMA Pediatrics showed that children younger than 10 were just as likely as older children to know where their parents’ firearms were stored – and to have handled them – without their parents’ knowledge.

The safe storage legislation is expected to require that when a firearm is not within reach or being worn by an adult, it should be secured with a trigger lock or cable lock. Clearly this would allow an adult in the home to have immediate access to use a firearm, but would secure the weapon from access by a juvenile when an adult is not present. (An exception would allow teenagers access to guns for livestock protection.)

The requirement to report loss or theft of a firearm is similarly a common-sense proposition.

Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial – whose son Alex was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre – will cosponsor the reporting bill, which carries a $25 penalty.

“It’s just a slap on the wrist,” he said, intended to “make law-abiding gun-owners take responsibility for what they have – because it’s killing our kids.”

Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn – who identifies himself as a gun owner, father and emergency room nurse – is a cosponsor of the safe storage bill. On the job, he’s seen the tragic consequences of gun violence.

A law is necessary to define what “safe storage” is, he said. “Our goal is not to punish people,” he said. “Our goal is to change their behavior.” Mullica and other sponsors worked with constituents and consulted with the NRA before writing the legislation.

“This bill will definitely save lives,” he said.

Mullica is right. All three measures are backed up by voluminous data showing they will reduce unintended deaths among children and reduce suicides and homicides.

The Durango Herald supports those who want to own and use firearms for nonviolent purposes. It’s time for gun owners to take full responsibility for that privilege.

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