Guest editorial: Gun violence can be curbed with sensible safety laws

Gun violence became personal to me when a gunman massacred 26 people, including 20 six and seven-year old children at Sandy Hook elementary school. I was thirteen years old at the time and Sandy Hook was just fifteen minutes from my house. That day changed my life. It was the day I committed myself to making my community and our country a safer place by advocating for common sense effective gun reform. I didn’t want any other community to experience the pain that we did. 
In the last six years since the massacre at Newtown I have learned a lot about gun violence. I have learned that gun violence touches and affects people in so many different ways; through mass shootings, urban gun violence, suicide, domestic violence, and police brutality to name a few. Since moving to Vermont to attend school at the Northern Vermont University I have learned that even this state, which so many people think of as an idyllic, safe, sleepy place, is not immune to the horrors of gun violence. 
Many of our elected officials, including our Governor, recently woke up to this fact when a school shooting was narrowly averted at Fair Haven Union High School. But while we may have escaped a school shooting (so far) we have not escaped gun violence. Vermont has the highest rate of gun deaths in New England – twice that of Massachusetts. There were 420 gun deaths in Vermont between 2011 and 2016. Many of these deaths were suicides but more than half of the homicide victims were women who were shot and killed by their boyfriends and husbands. 
In the last six years I have also learned that our gun violence epidemic is not normal. Americans are 25 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than people in other developed nations. No other country comes close. Why? Simply put because the corporate gun lobby works their tails off to put their profits over American’s safety. 
In the last six years I have also learned some good news, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do something about our gun violence epidemic. Gun safety laws work. They reduce incidents of gun violence and save lives. States with stronger gun laws have 40 percent fewer gun-related deaths. Laws that help keep guns out of the wrong hands help prevent suicides and domestic violence homicides. We can refuse to accept gun violence as the new normal because it is not normal. And we can act to make this state and our country safer. 
Our elected officials acted to make Vermont safer during the last legislative session. By standing up to the gun lobby and passing effective gun safety measures our elected officials have saved lives and made our state a safer place. It is now our turn to stand up for them. The General Election is right around the corner. I urge you to do your homework and vote for candidates who have supported common sense gun legislation and who will vote for gun safety. To see how your legislators voted on S. 55, one of the critical gun safety bills, click here, or here.
The author is a student at Northern Vermont University. 

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