Opinion | Susan Knopf: Life and liberty
We were taking a little break from skiing. My friend pulled out her phone and said she needed to see what was going on. She received a flurry of texts. She kept herself composed but looked visibly upset. I saw her hand tremble.
Her friends were texting. A news bulletin flashed on her screen. There was a domestic shooting following an argument. A woman was dead. The shooting was in the vicinity of their friend’s home. More texts. Then a silence that seemed interminable. Then confirmation.
Her friend was shot, dead at the hand of her estranged husband, hours before their divorce was to be finalized.
Two children now have no parents. Not really. Will the grandparents take the kids? Or the kids’ uncle? What will happen to them? To their friendships? To their lives?
This issue has plagued our communities, looming larger with every passing year. Gun violence is the No. 1 cause of death in children in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.
My cousin killed himself with a handgun in the 1970s. And a school-aged neighbor killed herself in the 1980s.
Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons told me “We all have to come to the table and construct something that respects the Second Amendment and respects life. Let’s build something”
Whatever that is, we need to try to keep guns out of the hands of people bent on violence.
We have tried to walk a middle line between the demands of gun-advocating activists and the needs of families to safeguard their children and parents. The danger has still grown. The threat is too great for a middle line.
What right to “bear arms” is greater than the human right to live? Surely we all know that any right of ownership is subordinate to the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” What chance of happiness did my cousin have? What about my neighbor or those kids who lost their mother?
Stricter gun laws are awaiting the governor’s signature. Senate Bill 23-170 expands who can file a red flag petition. Senate Bill 23-169 increases the age to legally possess a firearm from 18 to 21.
FitzSimons says he’s in favor of expanding the red flag law, increasing the waiting period and raising the age to legally possess a firearm to 21.
According to the Giffords Law Center to prevent Gun Violence, teen suicide attempted with a firearm has gone up 81% in the past decade. The Giffords Law Center points out that adolescent brains are still developing until age 26, and possibly later: “The biological processes that take place during late adolescence and young adulthood can predispose individuals to riskier and more aggressive behaviors.”
House Majority Leader Monica Duran, a leading sponsor of the bill, told Colorado Public Radio, “Why wouldn’t we do something right to curb that? Why wouldn’t we do something to stop that?”
Senate Bill 23-170 “expands the list of who can petition for an extreme risk protection order (red flag) to include licensed medical care providers, licensed mental health-care providers, licensed educators, and district attorneys.”
“The bill requires the office of gun violence prevention to expend funds annually on a public education campaign regarding the availability of, and the process for requesting, an extreme risk protection order.”
The legislature is still considering:
- An assault weapons ban, HB23-1230
- A minimum three-day waiting period to legally possess a firearm, HB23-1219
- Access to the judicial system for gun violence victims, SB23-168
We all can comb through the shootings of the past decades and find that these laws would still fail to protect loved ones. We are called to do something. Our students filled the halls of the Capitol and demanded we do something to protect their young lives.
As gun owners we support responsible gun ownership. FitzSimons said, “North of I-70 gun ownership is a part of everyday ranching life, and we have a lot of responsible gun ownership.”
We call on all marksmen, and hunters to do the right thing and protect life. Isn’t that what your gun is for? Let’s vigilantly keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm others.
Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes biweekly on Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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