Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician running for Congress in West Michigan, today announced six specific common-sense measures to help prevent gun violence. The announcement comes two days before students across the nation -- including in West Michigan -- plan a 17-minute walkout on Wednesday to honor the victims killed in a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
"As an ER physician who has treated and lost patients to gun violence, and who has seen mental health patients suffer with no place to get help, I believe the time for action is now, and so do the overwhelming majority of West Michiganders and Americans," Davidson said. "Families demand real solutions to a problem that is killing people at near-epidemic rates yet receives little response from Washington politicians who are more afraid of the gun industry lobby than their own constituents. Americans from every background demand real solutions that can reduce gun violence and save lives."
Davidson's proposal involves:
1. Ending gun manufacturers' near-total immunity that prevents them from accountability
2. Enforcing universal, more-robust background checks for all gun sales
3. Banning military-style high-powered weapons of war such as the AR-15 used in Parkland
4. Banning high-capacity magazines
5. Providing more funds for mental health programs and behavioral medicine resources in schools
6. Ending a 22-year-old provision that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence and its impact on public health
"We are children. We should be enjoying our childhood, hanging out with friends and focusing on our teacher's new lesson plans in class. Instead, we fear for our lives, said Elijah Nichols, a senior at Reeths-Puffer High School in Muskegon.
In a letter to Huizenga that he read, Nichols said: "As a father of five children yourself, you share the same concerns of all parents for the safety of their children. I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of every parent who fears dropping their child off in the morning. I ask you to imagine your own children going through a lockdown drill, fearing whether they would ever have to do it for real someday." (Nichols' letter is attached below.)
Davidson was joined by West Michigan citizens ranging from survivors and mental health experts to veterans and students. Davidson challenged Congressman Bill Huizenga to support the proposal. Davidson is running against Huizenga in the Second Congressional District covering West Michigan and the Lakeshore.
Army veteran Gary Reynolds of Norton Shores said: "I wore our nation's uniform and swore an oath to protect our Constitution and my fellow Americans from harm and that oath never ends. As a gun owner trained to use weapons of war, we must do something about gun violence. Military-style weapons like the AR-15 used in Parkland and other massacres are used for hunting only one thing: people. And lately, those people include kids in their classrooms. We must do more to protect America's children from deadly gun violence."
Huizenga has received more than $23,000 from the gun industry, including more than $11,000 from the National Rifle Association, since he joined Congress in 2011. On Feb. 2, Huizenga voted to allow mentally ill people to buy guns, which President Donald Trump signed into law, scrapping a safety measure that had been enforced under the previous administration. Meanwhile, the Trump regime is proposing massive cuts to mental health services -- cuts to key programs that Huizenga has so far been silent on.
"Communities and families across West Michigan demand real solutions that address the problem of gun violence from all angles, including blocking access to weapons that belong on battlefields and providing more mental health support," said Shauna Hunter, a community advocate who works with at-risk youth in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights. "In our community, kids live in fear, families live in grief and guns are the cause and a new dynamics of hopelessness that we must address now. Instead of kicking the can down the road and hiding behind the Second Amendment and the gun lobby's money, politicians in Washington and Lansing should wake up and take action immediately."
Joellen Evans Rhyndress, a Muskegon-based social worker and mental health professional, said: "People suffering with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators. Mental health can't catch and treat every person who shows "red flags.' In addition, in some cases, there may never be any "red flags' to catch. If we are serious -- truly serious -- about ending mass shootings, we should focus on ways to make it harder for people who may be struggling with mental health issues to get guns."
According to federal data, guns kill 96 Americans on an average day.
In Michigan more people die from guns than traffic fatalities according to a 2015 analysis of available state data.
On an average day, seven children are killed by gun violence nationally.
More than 50 U.S. women are shot dead by a partner in an average month.