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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Hooper: It’s possible to protect gun rights while protecting against mass shootings

Columbine. Blacksburg. Newtown. Charleston. San Bernadino. Orlando. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs.

Whether it’s the 1999 massacre at a Colorado high school, the 2007 murders on the Virginia Tech campus or the senseless 2016 shooting of partiers at the Pulse Night Club — and all the horrific scenes in between — we continue to add to the sad roll call of cities struck by mass shootings.

Yes, some right-minded gun owners have saved lives, but the mass shootings outnumber those heroic instances.

Surveys consistently show that most Americans — including gun owners and NRA members — support limiting access to guns for people with mental illnesses and individuals who are on the federal no-fly or watch lists. A 2017 Pew Research study also revealed that strong majorities favor background checks for private sales and at gun shows.

Yet those who support such legislation have to do more than show up in surveys. The clarion calls rings every day when you consider:

• Eleven U.S. school shootings occurred in the first 23 days of 2018.

• Fifty women, nationally, are shot to death by intimate partners each month.

• Seven children and teens are killed with guns in the United States on an average day.

Pew and Gallup want to hear from you. State representatives need to hear from you.

The League of Women Voters recently convened a panel to illuminate the issues and explain the work of its Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, formed after the Pulse shootings in 2016. Groups like the coalition and Moms Demand Action have played defense in Tallahassee, fighting against laws that would allow for open carry around the state, and allow guns, with concealed and carry permits, on schools and college campuses.

Patricia Brigham, co-chair of the coalition, credits its lobbying efforts with defeating past initiatives to bring these onerous proposals into law, but it needs the assistance of all those folks who continue to poll in favor of reasonable restrictions.

"There needs to be more public involvement in understanding the gun issue," Brigham said. "We cannot believe just because the NRA has a reputation of being all powerful, there’s nothing the public can do."

Brigham encourages those who want more sensible laws to petition state representatives. At the Jan. 23 panel, the league passed out post cards that attending members could send to representatives. Every call, email and note helps elected officials realize the majority of Americans want a balance between the Second Amendment and rational measures. Learn more at preventgunviolenceflorida.org.

The belief that common sense measures lead to taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens simply doesn’t hold water. In fact, I often believe the NRA and the gun lobby look to limit gun restrictions because it helps them market the myth of, "They’re coming to take your guns."

How can we continue to fight against a supposition when mass shootings are a mind-numbing reality?

This society possesses the intelligence and sophistication to protect the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution and create greater protections. It’s not an either-or proposition. People counter with arguments about why gun restrictions wouldn’t have prevented a certain tragedy, but there’s valor in making the effort.

We owe it to all the people who have lost their lives, and all the survivors who mourn, to try to create a safer America. If it fails, we can at least say we tried. And then we try again, because the sad roll call of cities needs to end.

That’s all I’m saying.

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