Our letter to Governor Baker urging him to close gun stores during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dear Governor Baker:

 

As leaders of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, we ask you to immediately clarify that gun stores remain non-essential businesses in MA and must close during the current pandemic. Despite your initial directive listing gun shops as non-essential in order to protect employees and the general public from Covid-19, numerous gun shops nonetheless remained open, in defiance of your directive to close. Now, after changes to the language this week there is confusion about what parts of the firearm industry can remain open. We now ask that you immediately publicly clarify that gun stores are in fact not essential businesses, and order those stores to close, in accordance with your directive.

 

We deeply sympathize with all business owners who have been forced to close as a response to the pandemic, but we appreciate the need to take these steps in order to protect public health. It is concerning to see gun shops --businesses that have not been deemed essential--feeling entitled to ignore that directive while other businesses comply.

 

In fact, beyond exposing their employees and the public to coronavirus, allowing gun shops to remain open poses an additional immediate and long-term threat to public health and safety. On average, close to 40,000 Americans die every year from gun violence. Scientific research overwhelmingly demonstrates that increased rates of gun ownership are tied to higher rates of gun deaths.

 

With multiple media reports suggesting that sales of guns and ammunition are significantly increasing nationwide during this crisis, we are working to make the public aware of several dynamics that may result in higher numbers of gun deaths and injury long-term. One such area of concern is unintentional shootings from improperly secured guns.

 

According to recent data, 888 children under the age of 18 died from unintentional gunshot wounds between 2009 and 2018 in the United States and approximately 4.6 million children and teens in the United States live in homes where loaded guns are kept unsecured. This number is only likely to increase with the recent mass acquisition of weapons coupled with children at home for extended periods of time with the closing of schools across the country.

 

A second cause for worry is suicide by firearm, which already accounts for two-thirds of the 40,000 gun deaths that occur in the United States annually. During this time of heightened stress and growing isolation, many people are struggling with increased depression and anxiety, and may not have access to their support networks, therapists or typical coping mechanisms. Research tells us that easy access to guns, particularly during times of crisis, significantly increases the risk of death from suicide. This research indicates that suicide attempts by firearm are successful 91% of the time (Lewiecki & Miller, 2013) as compared to 5% for all other common means. Here in Massachusetts, calls to suicide prevention hotlines have already jumped by almost one third in light of the current pandemic. Coupling the increase in levels of stress with easier access to guns is particularly dangerous.

 

A third area of concern is the escalated risk of injury or death for survivors of domestic violence. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent. Recent research from the University of Indianapolis found that for each 10% increase in household gun ownership rates, there was a 13% increase in domestic violence homicides involving firearms. Given the directives across the country to stay at home as much as possible, survivors of domestic violence are more likely to be in close quarters with their abusers without immediate access to resources such as advocacy, safety planning, or shelter, given the impact of the pandemic on social services. Increased acquisition of guns means that more survivors, who are already at escalated risk of harm, will be living in households where guns are present. The combination of guns and domestic violence is lethal.

 

We are deeply worried about this trend. We will continue to advocate for comprehensive responses to gun violence. We will call on the federal government to enact laws like those in Massachusetts including universal background checks, licensing provisions, safe storage requirements, prohibitions on gun purchasing for those charged with domestic violence, and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. We ask that you partner with us in the work to end gun violence by clarifying and enforcing the message that gun stores need to remain closed during the pandemic. We thank you for your attention to this request. Public health and safety depend on it.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ruth Zakarin, Executive Director

Janet Goldenberg, Co-Founder and Board President Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

“What can we do?”

 

We hear this from some of our members and thus the following incomplete list of ideas for projects and individual activities.

Here's what you can do as a group or organization:

  • Invite representative from one of the Coalition member organizations or Executive Committee to speak

  • Meet legislators to develop a relationship with them going forward

  • Gun buyback

  • Gun lock giveaway in association with local police

  • Create relationship with local newspaper

  • Postcards to legislators

  • Participate in Lock it Up

  • Publicize the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)

  • Support other groups' events especially urban groups such as Louis Brown Peace Institute Mothers Day Walk
     

Individual tasks within a group

  • Create and maintain a list of members on constant contact or other software

  • Write regular newsletters including coming events of other groups

  • News releases to local papers with coming events of the group

  • Contact papers for coverage of events

  • Create and maintain Facebook

  • Keep track of letters to the editor

  • Keep informed of events for the web site for similar groups; if they are a subgroup of faith community, post regularly in church bulletin


Things people can do individually:

  • Show up at events that other members have

  • Write a letter to the editor to #EndGunViolence. A powerful way to advocate for these bills is by writing a letter to the editor! We need your help advocating for bills by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Find samples, talking points, and newspaper contact info in our toolkit by clicking here.

  • Encourage your doctor to talk to patients about the dangers of gun violence

  • Inform yourself and share

  • Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

  • Rubber stamps with message

  • “Gun safety matters” bumper sticker

  • Publicize ERPO possibly by posting stickers in women's restrooms

  • Distribute Lock it Up rack cards in libraries, etc

  • Call and email legislators on issues

© 2018 by Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

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