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Student Voices 

Local youth weigh in on gun violence, in schools and in the wider community

Page 5 of 12

America's Gun Violence Problem Needs a Measured Approach

By William Anderson
Student at Redmond Proficiency Academy

In the wake of tragedies like the Parkland and Las Vegas shootings, the cacophony defining the gun violence debate rages on.

With former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calling for young activists to repeal the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association advocating arming teachers, the fissures in what would seem like universal issue grow. Reaching any lasting resolution will require a brand of bipartisanism few practice.

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Organizations like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America stand out amid the partisan squabbles for their much-needed moderation. The organization does not aim to enact the sweeping change that each side finds so alarming. Instead, Moms Demand Action works to transcend party lines in the fight for gun reform.  

"Our members are Democrats and Republicans and pro-Second Amendment rights but [the issue] has become partisan," said Ruth Herbert, the legislative co-lead of Moms Demand Action. "I don't think it needs to be."

The organization finds a middle ground by invoking a lost art: accounting for public opinion and suggesting changes that are well within its scope. Take, for example, comprehensive background checks.

"Over 90 percent of Americans believe in comprehensive background checks," said Zandra Brant, the other legislative co-lead of the organization. "That would include not just buying a gun from an authorized gun seller but through online or at gun shows. The United States doesn't have it, but many states do. We passed it 3 years ago in Oregon."

In a survey of 35 students, most respondents confirmed Moms Demand Action's measured approach. 57 percent said they would support more regulations on firearms, though the more extreme measures were unfavorable, 55 percent would not support a repeal of the Second Amendment and 61 percent did not support the work the NRA was doing.

In the United States, the prevalence of gun culture proves a unique barrier to resolving the problem. Around 400 million guns are in circulation, according to the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and stigma surrounding governmental regulation of arms predates the Revolutionary War. For advocates of gun rights like Josiah Underwood, an employee at Radian Weapons in Redmond, Ore., action by the federal government simply isn't appealing.

"I don't know that you legislate your way out of violence," said Underwood. "Of course, you could probably ban the use of firearms exclusively and that would probably reduce gun violence-related deaths but then you would be depriving hundreds of people of their rights to protect themselves."

Moms Demand Action is not looking for the repeal of the Second Amendment, they advocate for smaller changes. One of the misconceptions they consider hindering to their advocacy is the belief that reformists want a universal ban on guns.

"There's a lot of fear around people trying to confiscate everybody's guns which is not what we advocate for at all and that legal gun ownership is not going to go away in this country," said Herbert. "We just want people to be safe with them to protect children and to protect our families from violence."

Their marked approach includes not just pushing policies that are well received but looking for candidates that are sympathetic to the plight of gun owners as well as advocated for change. Locally, they support Jamie McLeod-Skinner for Oregon's Second Congressional District.

"I know that McLeod-Skinner is very much in favor of gun violence prevention even if she is a rural Democrat," said Brant. "Nevertheless, her experience living in rural Oregon has made her understand the need some feel for possessing guns, like those in areas where the closest sheriff's office might be half an hour away."

The advocacy that Moms Demand Action should serve as an example of the change needed in America. Through measured progress, they seek out a functional solution people can agree on.

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