Taking steps to prevent a tragedy

The Post-Star

Aug. 10

Gun control and Second Amendment rights can be an emotional and volatile issue in our communities, and we would be the first to admit we have tiptoed around the issue because of that.

After the killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook in 2012, we took a more aggressive approach and responded with a series of four editorials that looked at all sides of the issue as we urged our community to come together for solutions.

We believe that spurred dialogue.

We wrote at the time:

“We have to change, we have to compromise, and we have to agree the current path is not working and is not the world we want to leave for our children, if they survive. And politics should not get in the way.”

Sadly, politics has continued to stand in the way.

The National Rifle Association, of which there are just 5 million members in a country of 249 million adults, continues to lead politicians around by their noses.

One-hundred people a day die in gun-related shootings, two-thirds by suicide

Over 90 percent of Americans believe there should be universal background checks before purchasing a firearm.

The House of Representatives passed a measure earlier this year to require universal background checks — Rep. Elise Stefanik voted against it — but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the bill from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

We have no faith that politics will provide a solution.

The good news is that New York continues to be one of the safest states when it comes to gun violence.

The passage of the SAFE Act in 2013 remains a contentious issue for many in our communities, but we urge you to look deeper at its impact.

In New York, universal background checks are required to obtain a firearm.

Penalties were stiffened on those who have illegal firearms, and in the six years since the SAFE Act was passed, we have seen firearm-related crimes go down.

High-capacity magazines and assault weapons were banned under the law.

Ammunition dealers were required to conduct background checks.

Mental health professionals now have to alert officials if they have a patient they believe might harm others.

The vast majority of infractions against the law are in New York City, where prosecutors have repeatedly secured felony convictions that lead to longer criminal sentences.

So while the law continues to be maligned, especially upstate, statistics show it has made the state safer, and most importantly, we see no evidence of the feared grab for legal firearms, while the Second Amendment appears as strong as ever.

New York could eventually be an example for the rest of the country.

Over the weekend, 31 more people died in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

In Dayton, the shooter got off 41 rounds and killed nine people before he was taken down 30 seconds into the attack.

It is a reminder there is no security measure that can stop a madman intent on conducting mayhem. We’d like to see the rest of the country enact laws that mirror what we have here in New York, but we have little faith in any of the politicians.

We wonder if the solution lies within each and every one of us. We think there are things we all could do.

Obviously, the hate speech at all levels of political discourse is out of control and needs to be tamped down. Let’s demand better from the politicians and each other.

Stop with the tweets.

Stop with the name calling and nicknames.

Each and every one of us needs to rededicate ourselves to civil discourse, to listening to each other.

Stop with the name-calling and accusations on Facebook. If you want to participate in democracy, spend the month researching issues from reliable sources and write informed letters to the editor.

Stop reading the opinion blogs.

Turn off talk radio.

Watch a good movie on cable instead of an opinion show.

Take a deep breath.

On Thursday, protests and counterprotests were held in Glens Falls and six were arrested.

Let’s take a break until the temperature is cooler.

If you need to do something, how about coming together to make our community even safer.

We have great faith that this is a moral community that can get past the politics and the hate to do whatever it takes to make our world in upstate New York safer.

We are a big believer in gun safety and believe no one should be allowed to buy a firearm before first going through a safety course. There are currently no laws that require this.

Many of the local gun clubs already provide such services, but they could go further. Perhaps they could make these safety classes mandatory to club members as a way to set an example to the community at large? They could hold annual refresher courses for members.

We wondered if the gun clubs could partner with firearm dealers around the region to ensure that new gun owners will be provided an opportunity to get the safety training they need. Maybe each new gun owner could be assigned a mentor.

This could be a project for the Chamber of Commerce as part of a “Make our community safe” project. Rotary, the Elks and the Kiwanis could be involved as well, along with any of the many veterans’ organizations.

We recently heard about a gun give-back program in Plattsburgh. We’d like to see this become an annual tradition in each of our counties so residents can dispose of firearms they do not want. We’d like to see law enforcement jump all over this.

We all can play a role in preventing the next accident, in heading off a suicide by a loved one or taking steps to prevent a tragedy.

By Patricia Older

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