Late Breaking News
|Date: July 23, 1998 3:21 pm
Contact: Handgun Control
Robin Terry 202-218-4641
or 800-465-0187 (pager)
|Gun Control Advocates Ask Why Senate Killed 'Kids and Guns' Bills Despite Overwhelming Public Support|
|WASHINGTON - July 23 - The following was released to by Handgun Control
Today, for the second time in two days, the Senate refused to take action to protect children from guns, voting to table legislation that would hold adult gun owners legally responsible for locking up guns away from children.
Just one day earlier, the Senate also tabled legislation that would require the inclusion of child safety locks with every handgun sold in the United States. According to an April 1998 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 75 percent of people surveyed support holding a gun owner criminally responsible if a child gains access to firearms and harms another person. An October 1997 Hearst poll showed that 86 percent of the American public supports including child safety locks with all guns sold.
Suzann Wilson, the mother of Brittheny Varner who was killed in the Jonesboro schoolyard shooting, demanded to know why senators would vote against such reasonable proposals. In the Jonesboro case, the two youths allegedly took three unsecured handguns from the home of one of the boys, after unsuccessfully attempting to blowtorch a gun safe. They then obtained rifles from an unlocked cabinet in the home of the boy's grandfather.
"This is insane," said Mrs. Wilson. "How many more children have to die before Congress acts to protect our children from guns? I want answers, not excuses. Next week, Renee Brooks and I will go to Washington and we will ask to meet with congressional leaders and every Senator who voted against these life-saving measures." Renee Brooks lost her 12-year-old daughter, Natalie, in the Jonesboro shooting.
Both proposals were offered as amendments to the 1998 Commerce, State and Justice Appropriations Bill. The child access prevention (CAP) amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), was modeled after laws currently in effect in 16 states, which require firearms in the home to be locked up out of kids' reach and impose criminal penalties on the gun owner if a child harms someone with an unsecured gun. Contrary to the claims made by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), the proposal would not have imposed penalties on the gun owner if the gun was obtained by forced entry or break-in. An October 1997 study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that states which passed their own CAP laws experienced a 23 percent drop in unintentional firearm deaths of children aged 14 and younger.
While the child safety lock amendment, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was defeated, the Senate passed a meaningless alternative amendment, offered by Sen. Craig, which simply requires that gun dealers make gun locks available for sale -- something which most gun stores already do. Craig sits on the Board of the National Rifle Association.
"How many more children must die in school shootings, unintentional shootings and impulse suicides in the home before our lawmakers will act?" said Sarah Brady, chair of Handgun Control Inc. "Including child safety locks with every handgun sold is no different from including seat belts with every new car. If gun owners and gun manufacturers are not responsible for keeping guns out of the hands of children, then who is? I wonder if the senators who voted against these two common-sense amendments have the courage to face Suzann Wilson and Renee Brooks and tell them why they won't protect children from guns."
According to a 1997 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of firearm deaths among children 14 years old and under is nearly 12 times higher in the United States than in 125 other industrialized countries combined. The unintentional firearm-related death rate for children 0-14 years old is nine times higher in the United States than in the 25 other countries combined. The suicide rate for children 0-14 years old is twice as high in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. There is no difference in the non-firearm suicide rate between the United States and the other 25 other countries. Virtually all the difference is attributable to suicides being committed with guns in the United States.
Handgun Control Inc., chaired by Sarah Brady, is the nation's largest citizens' gun control lobbying organization. Based in Washington, D.C., HCI works to enact stronger federal, state and local gun control laws, but does not seek to ban handguns. Founded in 1974, HCI has more than 400,000 members nationwide and works with local groups around the country to enact and protect reasonable gun control laws. More information about HCI and its affiliated organization, the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, can be found on the web site at www.handguncontrol.org .
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