By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools teacher and principal and former Worcester School Committee member

This summer: Mr. Monfredo. CECELIA file photo.

“We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day. If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”

― US Senator Elizabeth Warren, from “A Fighting Chance”

I am deeply concerned about the gun violence taking place in our nation and in our community every day. Too often we watch the news and a killing or mass murder is happening. So I started doing some research on this topic and read information from our citizens across the United States. The information was astounding!

Gun violence is a public health epidemic in this country, with nearly 40,000 Americans killed by guns each year, including more than 23,000 dying by firearm suicide. According to the research, more than 100 gun deaths happen every single day.

Among high-income countries, the U.S. leads in gun violence. We have the highest firearm ownership and, compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. In addition, the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is nearly 25 times higher than other high-income countries. The firearm suicide rate is nearly 10 times that of other high-income countries.

Against Violence

The research does say that there is a misconception that those living with mental illness are responsible for gun violence. But the research states that mental illness does not cause gun violence – the problem is access to firearms.

Still, based on those statistics, more than 6 in 10 Americans believe that a gun in the home makes the family safer. However, the evidence is clear: guns don’t make you safer. The overall gun deaths increased 17% over the last decade – the gun suicide rate increased 12.5% and the gun homicide rate increased nearly 26%.

If you go on the internet and read what owners of guns have to say it’s an eye opener. Many say that they use it to defend their families, others for hunting or for sports. When asked about a ban on guns – most stated it was impossible, for we have more guns in the homes than people. Most felt that firearms should remain in the hands of people and have no intention of giving them back without a fight. “In America, elimination is an impossible task.”

We also have a very strong and well organized gun lobbying organization that pours money into political elections – the NRA – and that many politicians kowtow to for the money. Bought and paid for by the NRA.

Many people stated that the right to bear firearms is legal, for our citizens have that right under the 2nd Amendment. However, on a side note, let’s remember that the citizens in 1776 carried muskets and NOT semi-automatics. And it was to form an army against the British. No one needs a gun that fires 10 to 50 rounds per second for protection or for killing an animal. No one needs a semiautomatic rifle. I don’t think that’s what our founding fathers had in mind.

Let’s face it, gun violence in our country is a public crisis. The murder rate in our country is 25 times higher than it is in peer nations, and American teenagers are 82 times more likely to die from a gun homicide than their international peers.

The problem is that there is no simple solution to reducing gun violence in this country. I believe that we need to look at some common-sense steps as a start. Here are some that are worth talking about:

“Compared to other peer countries, basically what we have is lots and lots of guns… and we have by far the weakest gun laws,” declared David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Here are some ideas …

– Ban Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines

– Enable the Center of Disease Control and Prevention to Research Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

– Require Universal Background Checks – for All Gun Sales

– Support Local Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs

– Disarm All Domestic Abusers

To me, banning assault weapons is a no brainer!

No private citizen should own one. These are military weapons, and they are used to kill human beings. Why have we not banned them from private citizens? Under President Bill Clinton assault weapons were banned – and there were fewer gun-related deaths.

Also, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center suggested that more research take place and recommends measures aimed at living safety with guns by having a safe storage requirement, smart guns that can only be used by their owner, and safety features that prevent guns from firing when dropped or after a magazine is removed. These are some suggestions in reducing gun violence in this country.

Another national survey by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy and Research found that 84% of all respondents who owned a gun in the survey stated that first time gun buyers should be required to pass a safety course on the safe handling and storage of a firearm. They also believed that carriers of concealed weapons should be required to demonstrate that they can safely and lawfully handle their weapon in the types of situations they might encounter.

This brings us up to 2023! The latest move coming from Congress is a bill by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. He is reintroducing two bills to help curb gun violence and strengthen gun safety. One bill would be to better equip and crack down on gun violence and illegal use of firearms. The other bill would incentivize state and local governments to implement the need for a permit to purchase laws. This would require individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun.

This is a start, so let’s hope that Congress will support it, as well as the banning of assault weapons.

Please encourage our delegation in Massachusetts to support these bills. Let all of us stay on top of the gun violence crisis in America. It’s time for us to stop being silent!