If we don’t remember the victims, we will never act to prevent more senseless gun violence. We can make a difference if we demand the changes that lead to safer communities.

People should be safe from gun violence when they go about their daily business. Children should be safe from gun violence wherever they are. We can decrease the number of gun homicides and suicides through common-sense precautions and legislation.

Eight years ago Monday, Dec. 14, we were rocked with the news that a troubled young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and fired 154 bullets in less than five minutes, killing 20 children and six teachers. That one event seemed to set off a series of school shootings.

One “upside” to our current pandemic situation is that there have been no school shootings since the shutdown in March. However, gun violence is still a public health epidemic within the pandemic: 268 children (ages 0 to 11 years) and 962 youth (ages 12 to 17) have died due to gun violence between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1 this year. Almost 3,500 children and youth have been injured by gunfire in that same time period. If we consider human potential as one of our natural resources, this is a huge loss.

Most of these deaths represent a gun left loaded and unlocked so a young person could access it. In the cases of many of the teenagers, the deaths were self-inflicted. We adults are responsible for keeping our children safe. Every gun in the hands of a child first goes through the hands of an adult.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Recently, Duluth has experienced an increase in shots fired in our neighborhoods. Fortunately, no one has been killed — yet. The families which live in the neighborhoods where the shots have been fired express deep concern and fear in comments to the media. Not all gun violence is intentional. Many times, it is the innocent bystander, or the child sitting in his or her home, who is harmed.

The behavior we put up with is the behavior we get more of. By speaking up and taking responsibility to store guns unloaded and locked, we can begin to reduce the threat of dangerous gunfire in our neighborhoods. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken has asked for the community to help identify those who are being reckless with their guns and disturbing the peace of our neighborhoods.

With the right to own and carry a gun comes the serious responsibility to use it sparingly and wisely and to keep it away from others who cannot handle that responsibility.

The Northland Brady Chapter, affiliated with Protect Minnesota, is a group of local citizens which opposes gun violence in all of its forms. We do this by increasing awareness and education and by advocating for sensible laws.

Contrary to what some say, we are not trying to take rights or guns away. We want to make sure that guns are bought legally and with proper vetting to make sure owners are up to the responsibility.

Next month the Minnesota Legislature will reconvene. If you are concerned and want to be part of the solution to gun violence, please let your elected representatives know how you feel. More information is available at the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota Facebook page. The community is invited to join us in our efforts to keep our children and our neighborhoods safe from gun violence.

Mary Streufert and Joan Peterson of Duluth are chapter leaders of Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota (facebook.com/NorthlandProtectMinnesota). They wrote this for the News Tribune.