Monday, June 27, 2022

A Small Yet Significant Step Toward Reducing Gun Deaths

Amazingly, the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre that left 21 dead — 19 elementary school students and two teachers — yielded a bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass very moderate legislation aimed at stemming gun violence. Once approved in the Senate by an unlikely and historic coalition including 15 Republicans, the legislation was rapidly passed by the House and signed by the president.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) was “deeply involved in drafting the bill, although the gun rights group ultimately opposed it,” according to The New York Times. That the bill passed, with 13 of the 15 Republicans voting for it having A or A+ ratings from the NRA, punctuates the unlikely outcome.

Unfortunately, Alabama’s two senators, Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, voted against the bill, which prompted me to write each:

Senator,

I’m deeply disappointed that you did not support the gun safety legislation that, fortunately, passed Congress and was signed by President Biden.

The provisions in the bill are reasonable: requiring background checks for first time gun purchasers under 21, closing the “boyfriend loophole,” funding state grants to implement red flag laws, funding mental health programs, funding increased security at schools.

Your fellow conservative, Republican Senator John Cornyn, worked arduously to ensure the legislation does not infringe on our Second Amendment rights. So I cannot understand your unwillingness to support it and extend grace to the parents who have lost children to senseless and tragic mass shootings.

Respectfully,

Friday, May 27, 2022

We Want More Than Thoughts and Prayers

Another tragic massacre of 19 children and two teachers, killed by an angry 18-year-old with a semi-automatic rifle. The reflexive response from Congress is to offer thoughts and prayers for the families and defer any suggestion of tougher access to guns, saying this is not the time for politics. The country's seeming acceptance of the tragedy is infuriating. Surely this is not what the writers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.

My response, seemingly futile, is to write Senators Shelby and Tuberville and Representative Rogers:

Following another tragic slaughter of American children and their teachers, it’s time for Congress to do more than offer thoughts and prayers and lamely suggest we arm our teachers.

No, I’m not suggesting we disarm America. I do respect the Second Amendment and know that most gun owners are responsible.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment is not without limits, and we accept the longstanding law restricting the right to own automatic weapons. So placing additional measures such as requiring background checks, increasing the legal age for purchasing firearms, and licensing some gun purchases seem like reasonable steps that won’t violate the Constitution.

Yes, I know those steps won’t eliminate gun deaths, just as seat belts and air bags don’t eliminate deaths from car accidents. Yet seat belts and air bags have measurably reduced deaths and were implemented as part of a continuous process to improve automotive safety. We should adopt the same philosophy to reduce gun deaths — particularly mass shootings.

Our children’s lives are sacred, more than the NRA’s talking points echoed by too many of our elected leaders. We must do more than offer thoughts and prayers. It’s time to explore reasonable options with earnestness and humility, honoring these children whose lives have ended too soon and so tragically.

Sincerely,

Gary Lerude

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Alabama Politics Trumps Transgender Health

This is my first letter to an Alabama politician since we moved to Opelika in November: 

Governor Ivey,

I am distraught by your support of the so-called Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which does not provide compassion or protection. Thankfully, Judge Liles Burke’s ruling stopped your misguided and harmful plan to ban puberty blockers and hormones for minors with gender dysphoria. His injunction provided ample justification for the ruling:
”the uncontradicted record evidence is that at least twenty-two major medical associations in the United States endorse transitioning medications as well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors.”
Further, your Tweet claiming knowledge of God’s intentions reveals hubris, a lack of knowledge of gender dysphoria, callous indifference for the mental health challenges faced by children with gender dysphoria, and disregard for parental rights — which I thought was a bedrock principle of Republicans. It’s really not simple.
"we’re going to go by how God made us: if the Good Lord made you a boy, you’re a boy, and if he made you a girl, you’re a girl. It’s simple."
For the health of the transgender youth of Alabama, I urge you to get to know several families with transgender youth and meet with the medical community to become more informed. It may not make for great election year politics, but it’s the principled step to take.

Respectfully,