By Linda Johnson

It is difficult to comprehend that there is yet another mass murder of children in our country. Nonetheless, a young 18-year-old boy who appears to have been bullied, dropped out of school, was unemployed, fighting with his parents and without a plan for his future, has committed the unthinkable. In his hands a weapon of war, an AR-15 machine gun, created for soldiers on the battlefield, not a classroom, ended the lives of 19 human beings.

Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in our country. This is the ultimate form of child abuse. Although gun laws are controversial, and we are divided on the changes that need to be made, political leaders across this country need to take action to restrict gun ownership in order to keep children and youth safe.

Guns in the home increase the risk of youth accidental death, fatalities resulting from familial disagreements, and youth and adult suicide. Additionally, guns make situations like home invasion more deadly. If you or someone you are close to owns gun, ask: Is it necessary to be a gun owner, and if so, why?

If you do own a gun and are rethinking your decision, consider looking into a gun buyback program, and always make sure that it is always stored safely. Take care that it is safely locked up, with the ammunition stored in a separate place. There are gun safety classes available to gun owners as well.

Hunting for food makes sense. In Australia, people store their hunting rifles at their local police stations and sign them out during hunting season. This way, they are protecting their family from accidental tragedy and still continuing their tradition of hunting.

The Second Amendment was written at a time when guns were one-shot-at-a-time blunderbusses. We were in the middle of a war on our soil and militia groups were actively participating in this revolution. This amendment was one that needed amending a very long time ago … probably more than 200 years ago, give or take.

The founding leaders of our nation could never have imagined the types of military weapons now in the hands of Americans, young and old. Honestly, they could not have foreseen the now common killing of children from stray bullets, mass murders of children in schools, citizens sitting in houses of worship, and grocery stores.

I know I am far from alone in thinking we must change this, and we must be very brave now about forming our much more perfect union. If our nation does not allow for the safety of its children, youth and all folks, then what have we created? Healthy, safe communities that protect children are in line with the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that the founders of our nation intended.

It is time to use every one of our voices to consider what we need to do about this overwhelming gun problem. It is one that is killing our children and our future as a society. Child abuse is preventable and gun violence is child abuse.

(Linda Johnson is executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.)

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