By Grace Lewis || Contributing Writer
It’s hard to talk about guns, and I bet that when people read the first phrase of this article, they will immediately go to the next one. Everyone has a different opinion of how controlled and monitored guns should be in our society. All of our different beliefs can make it difficult to talk about such a polarizing topic. However, no matter where your opinion falls on the spectrum, I hope we can all agree that we don’t want people to get hurt or be killed in the violent matters that currently plague our society. We want to help each other, and we want to protect each other; it’s part of our evolution to do so in order to ensure the survival of our species. But the tough part comes in knowing how to help each other. It can be very difficult to go up to someone and say: “Hey, I’m worried about you,” even though it sounds simple.
But what if there was a way to protect people from themselves and the potential dangers of firearms. Everytime after seeing the tragedy of a mass shooting or suicide, we learn that someone else was worried about the mental stability and well-being of the person. The statistics are out there; we know that the presence of guns in a household increases the chances of suicide and homicide (Everytownresearch.org). So what if we could help the people that we are worried about, especially if they have access to firearms?
Currently in our country, there are 13 states with a law called the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), also known as Red Flag Laws, including my home state of Washington (Giffords Law Center). This law allows for a family member, a friend, or a police officer to petition a judge to temporarily remove the firearms of a person who may pose a risk to themselves or others. This person would not have access to or have the ability to buy or sell any firearms for up to a year. This may seem extreme, but a study from Duke University in looking at the effects of an ERPO law in Connecticut—which has been in place since 1999—has been proven to be effective and save lives (Swanson).
The question remains, if ERPO is so effective at saving lives, why isn’t it all over the country? Let alone in the state of Pennsylvania? The answer is vague and frustrating because no one wants to have the difficult conversations. Only a few days ago, on the 12th of September, House Bill 2227 (a version of ERPO) was tabled (House Bill 2227)—essentially meaning that any discussion of the Bill has been suspended indefinitely. If the bill does not get talked about, it does not get passed, which could result in more hard times for our community.
We as a society need to be able to have the tough conversations in order to help protect each other from the viciousness that infects our lives. The desensitivity that we feel or are beginning to feel when seeing a tragedy in the news is not normal. I often find myself thinking that whatever horrific event occurred, could have been worse. I don’t consider the damage that has been done to the people affected but only how the body count could have been higher. That kind of thinking is dangerous, and I am sure I am not alone in it. The seeming indifference we feel towards the smaller massacres was not there even a decade ago, the frequency of our tragedies has gone up exponentially, making us feel nothing. So if you’re still with me, I ask of you to have the difficult conversations; therefore, we can begin to make the progress needed to ensure our exponential trend becomes negative again and the numbness begins to turn into feeling.