Guns and suicide
During the first week of December, lawyers representing Anne Arundel County are set to square off against their counterparts employed by the gun rights group, Maryland Shall Issue Inc., in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to argue over a matter that, frankly, boggles the mind.
Early last year, Republicans and Democrats on the Anne Arundel County Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring gun sellers to distribute, with each purchase, literature on suicide prevention and conflict resolution. With any other product that carries some danger, this would be regarded as standard, precautionary stuff. But Maryland Shall Issue took the matter to court, where the ordinance was nevertheless upheld by U.S. District Judge Stephanie Gallagher who found, among other things, that the pamphlets were accurate and unbiased. But that wasn’t good enough for the gun rights advocates, who filed an appeal.
So here’s where things stand. The plaintiffs claim that informing customers about how best to keep their guns safe from people who might self-harm is an intolerable infringement of their First Amendment rights.
Have we really come to the point in society where this modest effort to explain the symptoms of depression and other potential red flags to purchasers of deadly weapons can somehow be regarded as unreasonable? This isn’t just some theoretical conversation. In 2021, there were a record 26,328 gun-related suicides in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outpacing all other forms of suicide combined. What is the burden of a handing out a few pages if it will save just one life, let alone thousands? Are dealers worried that gun buyers might reconsider their purchases?
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