Smith urges action to end gun violence in Indiana

February 21, 2018 Vernon G. Smith

INDIANAPOLIS – The day after the Ash Wednesday mass shooting in a Parkland, Florida high school, State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) addressed the full body of the Indiana House of Representatives on the issue of gun violence and the need for change.

“This issue I bring to you is not a political football,” Dr. Smith told the Democratic and Republican House members. “It is not a part of the battle between Left and Right. It is an issue of common sense.

“Are we a civilized nation anymore?” he asked. “Or are we a gun nation because of one part of the Constitution of the United States?

“I believe in the Constitution of these United States,” continued Dr. Smith. “As a result, I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe that you have a right to bear arms, but does that preclude us from using common sense and the need for us to at least regulate the ownership and use of guns? Could we not have enhanced background checks? Could we not offer greater resources for those who suffer from mental illness?”

The Indiana University Northwest education professor said effective schools research shows that maintaining a safe, warm and inviting climate enhances the educational achievement of students. He asked how such an environment is possible if there is a constant worry about the safety of students, faculty and staff.

“Within the sixth week of the new year of 2018, there have been six shootings at schools. That concerns me,” said Dr. Smith. “Every day in this great nation, there is an average of 96 homicides involving guns. That concerns me. Annually, 13,000 persons become the victims of gun violence. That concerns me. When you look at the rate of homicides in this nation and compare them with the statistics of the Vietnam War, more Americans are losing their lives to gun violence than we experienced with the tragic loss of American servicemen and women during the Vietnam War.

“Do we need to sell military weapons or military-style weapons?” Dr. Smith asked his fellow legislators. “Is that consistent with the Second Amendment? Or do you think the founders of our country had other thoughts because such weapons of mass destruction did not exist when the Constitution was written? What does it take for us in this nation to understand that it is time to do something about this wave of violence that is occurring across these United States?

“My heart is heavy,” concluded Dr. Smith. “I tried to be as diplomatic as I can to get this burden off my heart, but I said what I said and I meant every word of what I said.”

Since the speech, the students from the Florida high school that suffered the tragedy have publicly spoken against the availability of assault rifles and the unwillingness of politicians to stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Young people across the country have joined these high school students in voicing protest.

“I commend these courageous students from Florida,” said Dr. Smith. “Instead of trying to move on from this life-scarring experience, the students are using this tragedy as a means to help bring about policy change. They have the courage that so many in legislative bodies around the country seem to be lacking as they cower in the shadow of the NRA. God bless these young people, who honor their friends whom they lost to violence. This next generation offers hope to our nation that longs for the promises of change that only valiant fortitude can bring forth to a violence-weary people.”