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America’s gun culture is what needs changing

Another weekend, another mass shooting.

Once again a place that we normally think of as safe and ordinary has become the scene of death and injury. With every incident, the response is predictable.

First we get “thoughts and prayers,” then talk about mental health and violent video games. Finally there are vague mumblings about background checks that never materialize.

What we are not willing to do as a country is take on the real issue that makes us different from other countries — gun culture.

Americans own 270 million guns, 40 percent of the guns in the world. There are 120.5 guns for every 100 residents. The closest to that is 52.8 guns/100 in Yemen.

It doesn’t make us safer — in fact quite the opposite. Every day, about 100 people are killed with a gun in this country. The U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high income countries. Firearms are the second-leading cause of death for American children and teens. Women are 21 times more likely to die by shooting than in comparable countries with fewer guns.

In domestic violence situations, gun access makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.

Actually, as a people, we do want to do something. Polling this year shows that 58 percent believe controlling gun violence is more important than “gun rights,” 89 percent favor background checks, 77 percent would require gun licensing, 57 percent favor assault weapon bans, and 65 percent favor banning high capacity ammunition clips.

Only 22-31 percent of Americans are estimated to own guns. In fact 3 percent of American adults own a stunning 50 percent of the guns.

Why are our elected officials not listening to the majority of us who want strong reforms? Why does Mitch McConnell refuse to bring reforms to a vote in the Senate? How can Senator Toomey say that we can’t ban assault weapons because they are “too popular?”

It is because politicians are bought and paid for by the gun lobby. Although he is no longer a favorite of the NRA because of positions he has taken on background checks, as of 2018 Toomey’s career total contribution from them was $1,467,821.

According to Bloomberg, the NRA spent $9.6 million lobbying lawmakers and federal officials over the past two years and various sources show that they spent between $55-60 million to support Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

As long as they are unwilling to listen to the public’s demand for reform, the only recourse the American people have is to elect officials who will put our safety above the interests of a deep-pocketed minority.

Meera Bajwa

Hollidaysburg

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