Del City rep: How will we keep guns out of the hands of those who use them to attack?

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The Midwest City-Del City school district was thrust into the spotlight once more because of guns ― the second such incident this year. Sadly, this one resulted in tragedy. I’m heartbroken because the parents of a 16-year-old who should be planning his future, instead face the heartbreaking task of planning his funeral. While this was Mid-Del, this could happen anywhere in Oklahoma. In fact, there were two other gun incidents at football games in Oklahoma the same evening.

According to current news reports, the death of this young person, along with injuries to two others ― a 15-year-old girl and a 42-year-old man who is fighting for his own life ― was caused by a simple argument at a football game. An argument that escalated into tragedy and death.

More: Everything we know about the shooting at Friday's Choctaw v. Del City football game

Five years ago, Oklahoma passed constitutional carry. That legislation eliminated most of the prior requirements for people to carry firearms in Oklahoma. Oklahomans no longer need training to carry. They no longer need licensing to carry in most places. Constitutional carry was initially vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin. But it became the first piece of legislation Gov. Kevin Stitt signed when he became governor. The day he signed the new law, Gov. Stitt assured Oklahomans, “There shouldn’t be any uptick in violence.” Unfortunately for all of us, Gov. Stitt was wrong. Five years' worth of gun death statistics show us he was dead wrong.

Fans clear out of Choctaw Stadium Aug. 25 after gunshots are heard during a high school football game against Del City.
Fans clear out of Choctaw Stadium Aug. 25 after gunshots are heard during a high school football game against Del City.

Whether it’s a football stadium, a college campus, a hospital, a highway or a parking lot, Oklahomans are less safe from gun violence than they were just five short years ago. In fact, a leading Oklahoma publication noted in March 2022 that Oklahoma is now ranked “Top Ten” in gun violence. Oklahoma also now leads the nation in domestic violence, often with tragic results, as with the Aug. 16 murder-suicide involving five family members.

We often hear repeated the adage that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” There is an element of truth to that. But it’s also misleading, because that simplification masks the underlying truth that guns make it trivial to kill people. What used to be minor shouting matches, fist fights or an angry hand-gesture to a driver, now routinely escalates into gunfire and death. As we saw on Aug. 25, even innocent bystanders are no longer safe.

There is much talk about hardening our schools to protect our kids. Mid-Del is doing that. We have installed metal detectors for our football stands and our fieldhouses. We have safety vestibules at school entrances and are completing access card installations for student access. We have terrific school resource officers who are on the front lines of community policing at our schools. But one must ask, how do we protect kids playing on playgrounds, walking through parking lots, standing at bus stops or walking/riding home from school?

We are forced to harden schools because it seems that our hearts also have hardened. It seems we are comfortable with sacrificing our reverence for life on the altar of gun idolatry.

More: Grading Oklahoma: How many firearms do Oklahomans buy?

One of my early lessons as a young business executive taught me that it is essential to define a problem accurately before we attempt to solve it. Otherwise, we will solve the wrong problem or produce substandard results. Second Amendment proponents say guns are for self-defense. I believe that, as well.

So the question for all of us in the Oklahoma Legislature is clear: How will we keep guns out of the hands of those who will use them to attack instead of defend? Oklahomans are dying to know.

Andy Fugate
Andy Fugate

Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, represents District 94 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Stats show Oklahomans less safe from gun violence than five years ago