Prusak: Safe gun storage is a necessary step
The events of recent weeks have elevated the urgency of doing more to prevent gun violence in our communities.
Across the United States, the toll of gun violence impacts communities large and small. According to the Gun Violence Archive, this year alone, there have been 262 mass shootings. More than 9,400 people have died as a result of gun violence. This epidemic is one of the greatest public health crises facing America today.
Fortunately, in recent years, Oregon has taken important steps to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would do harm to themselves or others. Oregonians voted to close the gun show loophole in 2000, and universal background checks were passed by the Legislature in 2015.
In 2017, the Oregon Legislature passed legislation creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders – sometimes known as a "red flag law." The legislation created a vital tool for law enforcement and family members to seek a court order that would temporarily remove guns from a person who might be a danger to themselves or others.
According to a recent report, in the first 18 months the law was in place, 117 petitions were filed with 92 of them granted. That means, guns were kept out of the hands of 92 people in Oregon who presented risk of harm to themselves or others.
Though we have made great strides in keeping our state safer from gun violence, there is still much work to be done. One primary area of focus for me as we look toward the 2020 legislative session is in passing a law to require the safe storage of firearms. These laws are intended to help prevent unauthorized users, including children, from accessing and using firearms, which can reduce tragedies due to suicide, unintentional discharges, and gun theft.
We know that easy access to firearms is one of the primary drivers of gun violence in the United States. Every year, dozens of children are injured and killed because guns were not locked up. Further, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1.4 million firearms were stolen between 2005 and 2010 with 80% of those never recovered.
Imagine how different those numbers would have been if those guns had been kept in a safe. Imagine how many of those guns were used in the commission of a crime.
Suicide rates are also driven by easy access to firearms. According to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, states requiring gun locks had a suicide rate 68% lower than states without a similar law.
Gun violence is preventable, but we all have to come together, across party lines and geographic divides to make a difference. I look forward to joining my colleagues and working on this issue in the upcoming legislative session. Together, we can make a difference and save lives.
Rachel Prusak has represented House District 37, including Tualatin, West Linn and parts of Stafford, in the Oregon Legislature since 2019. A Democrat, she lives in West Linn.
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