In 2020, guns became the leading cause of death for children for the first time. Prior to 2020 car accidents had been the leading cause of death for over 60 years. Time Magazine reported in its April 27, 2022, edition that there were a recorded 45,222 deaths because of gun violence in 2020 with 10 percent of those being children and teens.

The recent tragic events in Uvalde, Texas reinforce the need for serious discussion related to efforts to prevent this trend from continuing. The senseless deaths of 19 children and two adult teachers demand that there be an open debate in Congress concerning this preventable public health problem.

Repeatedly, following mass shootings our attention turns to five primary questions. Should there be a ban on the manufacturing and sale of assault style weapons? Should the age for purchase of these weapons be raised to 21? Should magazine capacities be limited to mitigate against a shooter’s ability to do harm? Should the scope of background checks be increased prior to purchase of a firearm? Finally, should the number of firearms an individual owns be limited? While in California some of these measures have been enacted, the rest of the country has varying gun control laws that conflict with other states’ measures that are more restrictive. None of the measures cited above would do anything to restrict a responsible gun owner’s ability to purchase a firearm or infringe upon their second amendment right to gun ownership.

The unimaginable deaths of 19 innocent children understandably leads to a sense of hopelessness, particularly for the families who suffered the loss of a child. Those who have not been directly impacted should not let this sense of hopelessness prevent action. We owe it to those families to be mindful and persistent in the pursuit of a solution so we do not become victims of our own complacency. While it is understood that there are those who may disagree with some of the proposals cited above, we still must be willing to engage in the debate. If in fact, Congressman Kevin McCarthy is elected the next Speaker of the House, this discussion must be made a priority so we can actively pursue a solution to what some have called a uniquely American problem. As one of his constituents, I insist this debate no longer be silenced.

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan was the victim of a senseless shooting that almost cost him his life. The shooting occurred as the result of the purchase of a .22 caliber RG 14 Rohm revolver from a Dallas pawnshop for $29.95. The purchaser and shooter, John Hinckley, was able to get off six shots in three seconds before being subdued. Ultimately, this tragic event led to the passage and signing of the Brady bill that greatly enhanced the nation’s background check system. Sarah Brady, the wife of one of the victims of the shooting championed the effort that led to its passage. Most strikingly, the bill was supported by three former Republican presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. To its credit, Congress acted in a bipartisan way to pass legislation to help prevent senseless deaths at the hands of someone with ill intent.

We owe it to the survivors and victims of these senseless acts to come together as Americans in our pursuit of a solution. Robert Kennedy, himself a fatal victim of gun violence, once said before his death that “in due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.” We now have an opportunity to address a major social ill and to stop gun violence from remaining the leading cause of death for our children.

Robert J. Kretzmer of Bakersfield has 44 years experience as an insurance adjuster and claims administrator.