President Donald Trump on Jan. 10 tweeted, "We lose 300 Americans every week (to heroin), 90% of which comes through the Southern Border. These numbers will be DRASTICALLY REDUCED if we have a Wall." Trump also has called the immigration debate a national emergency.

It is not a national emergency.

Climate change is a national emergency. The lack of affordable health care is a national emergency. Americans living in poverty with no way out is a national emergency. Gun violence is a national emergency.

If the fact that about 700 Americans a week are shot and killed in homicides, suicides, and "unintentional" shootings isn't a national emergency, I don't know what is. The Gun Violence Archive reports that, as of Jan. 18, 683 Americans had died in gun homicides so far this year. This does not include suicides that account for 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota and more than 60 percent nationwide.

You do the math. That's about 40,000 deaths a year.

On Jan. 8, a bill to require background checks on all gun sales was introduced in the U.S. House. One in five gun sales now goes without a Brady background check. If one in five passengers was allowed to board planes without going through TSA security, we would fix the problem.

Criminal background checks are necessary for public safety but will not end all gun violence. Just as safety measures for cars and drivers led to fewer deaths and injuries, so, too, can stronger gun laws. Just as passing laws about public smoking has saved lives, so, too, can stronger gun laws.

Most mass shooters are homegrown American terrorists. They are not coming from across the border. They are living among us. Shooters are your neighbors killing their wives or their kids. They are friends of your kids using a gun in a suicide. They are a friend's young child getting a gun and shooting himself or herself or someone else nearby. They are your neighbor's teen bringing a gun to school and shooting up his classmates. They are police officers getting shot or shooting someone. They are grandparents who may not have the judgment to handle guns safely. They are young gang members with guns they shouldn't have shooting each other on our streets. They may be people with severe mental illness who can't handle the responsibility of a lethal weapon. They are people carrying guns in public who don't act responsibly. These things happen every day in our country.

The pile of bodies and the number of survivors grow daily, affecting us all.

We can figure this out and do it together, but we need common sense and a will to act.

Gun rights and gun-safety reform are not mutually exclusive, as most gun owners agree with the 97 percent of Americans who favor background checks on all gun sales. This is a no-brainer for Congress and the Minnesota Legislature.

As long as Congress refuses to get serious about a national public health epidemic, we can expect to see more shootings They will happen anywhere at any time. Just because a shooting hasn't affected you so far doesn't mean one won't. I never thought my sister would be murdered in a domestic shooting, either. It changes one's perspective.

A year ago, on the 14th of February, 17 were murdered in Parkland, Fla. Since then, the brave surviving students have changed the conversation about gun violence in our country. Voters this fall chose majorities which want change to our gun laws and our gun culture.

The Minnesota House this session is expected to consider a bill to require background checks on all gun sales. There also is to be a "red flag" bill that would make sure people dangerous to themselves or others don't have guns.

Tell your Congress members to act. Tell your state legislators to act. Don't let the president's rhetoric about a national emergency on our southern border deflect and distract from the true emergencies.

 

Joan A. Peterson of Duluth is on the board of trustees for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, is co-president of the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, is regional chairwoman of the Protect Minnesota Board, and is a board member for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs/the Duluth Model.