FROM WHERE I STAND: Notes from the desk of peace activist Polly Mann (b. Nov. 19, 1919)

BY POLLY MANN

What can be done with guns?
In 2012 after the rampage shooting of 20 school children and six educators, in Newtown, Conn., Connecticut lawmakers passed some of the toughest gun measures in the country: 1) expanding an existing ban on assault weapons; 2) prohibiting the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds; 3) requiring background checks for all registration of assault weapons and, 4 ) creating a registry of weapons offenders. The result was a drop in gun-related deaths (in Connecticut) from 226 in 2012 to 164 in 2016.The Giffords Center, which keeps a report of violent deaths in the various states, gave Connecticut and New York A-minuses for their gun laws and ranked Connecticut 10th and New York 48th for their gun death rates. The difference is related to the difference in population of those states.
Lobbying on the issue has been extensive. According to the non-partisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, in the past three election cycles the National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s leading gun lobby, spent a total of $10.6 million to support candidates for state offices in 25 states. Between 2009 and 2016, at least two-thirds of that total went to state contests in which the group’s candidate won. Just how this last incident in Florida will affect the NRA’s selected candidates remains to be seen.

And now to another gun-related issue. In February, a Baltimore, Md., jury awarded more than $38 million to the family of Kerryn Gaines who was fatally shot by the police in 2016 after a standoff that had been partly broadcast on Instagram. After an approximately three-week trial and less than four hours of deliberation, the all-female jury found that the first shot the officer had fired was not reasonable. They then doled out damages on the grounds that Baltimore County had violated the Gainses’ civil rights and had committed battery on the mother and son.

Good News
The New York Times of March 4, 2018, carried a most interesting full-page ad, one that is a reminder to us all that the U.S. judicial system can serve to act as a remedy for policies that it deems are injurious to the American people. It follows.
A FEDERAL COURT HAS ORDERED R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO, PHILIP MORRIS USA, ALTRIA, AND LORILLARD TO MAKE THIS STATEMENT ABOUT THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF SECONDHAND SMOKE.

1) Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year; 2) Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke; 3) Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severe asthma, and reduced lung function; 4) There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

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