By Chelsea Parsons
I propose to start this conversation with a few key facts: 33,000 people are killed with guns in the United States every year. An additional 84,000 suffer nonfatal gunshot injuries.
Compared with their respective peers in other high-income countries, women in America are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, and children in the United States are 16 times more likely to be killed in an unintentional shooting.
Communities of color are hit particularly hard by gun violence: African American men make up more than half of all gun murder victims in this country. In 2015, gun violence became the leading cause of death among young Americans ages 15 to 24.
These statistics tell us that we have a uniquely American gun violence problem that has reached crisis levels.
But what can we do about it? This question is most often asked in the wake of a horrific mass shooting. However, while such incidents of random mass violence are what typically grab the nation's attention around the issue of gun violence, mass shootings are an outlier when it comes to gun violence in America.
Much more common are the interpersonal disputes, suicide attempts, and household accidents that happen in communities across the country every day and become fatal because of the presence of a gun. While most of these cases do not garner national or even local media attention, their victims' lives can be saved through the adoption of a number of commonsense gun policies.
There is no single, simple answer. Reducing these gun deaths will require a comprehensive approach to help keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose an increased risk of harm to themselves, their families, or their communities.
First, we need to enact laws that prohibit gun purchases and possession by individuals who pose a heightened risk, such as those with violent criminal records, domestic abusers, drug abusers, and the seriously mentally ill.
Second, we must ensure that timely and accurate records of all such prohibited individuals are provided to the background-check system.
Third, we must require a background check for every gun sale. Federal law currently requires background checks only for sales conducted by licensed gun dealers, leaving a significant gap that allows private sales of guns without background checks and with no questions asked.
Finally, law enforcement, public-health institutions, and community-based organizations need tools and resources to effectively enforce the laws already on the books, provide outreach and intervention programs to communities experiencing high rates of gun violence, and engage in ongoing research to shed light on the causes and consequences of gun violence in this country.
Policies like these can have a real impact on reducing gun violence and saving lives, and they are entirely consistent with and respectful of the Second Amendment.
It's easy for people to tune out when it comes to the gun debate in America. But with an American dying by gunfire every 15 minutes, it's an issue that is simply too important to ignore.
Chelsea Parsons is the vice president of guns and crime policy at the Center for American Progress. email@example.com