"But I can tell you that if I go two days without taking my medication, I can't walk in the door of this building. I can't get up in the morning. I can't take a shower."
These are the words of Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who says she suffers from "major depression."
Hayward also claims that both she and her husband "own weapons."
Certainly this has the potential to be a volatile combination and it is our hope that Hayward is getting adequate treatment and that the "weapons" she keeps in her home are not accessible to her. (Based on her comments she almost certainly would be denied a concealed handgun license anywhere in the state.) But apparently Hayward believes that her disability should be projected onto gun owners in Oregon.
Hayward is the chief sponsor of SB 945, a bill that would send you to prison if a minor were to access a firearm you owned. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing and work session on Thursday, April 16th at 8am in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Given Hayward's admission of her own inability to "function as a normal human being" without her medication, it seems odd and hypocritical that she would limit the punishments created in the bill, to guns acquired by minors. Why not punish people who allow access to firearms by people who suffer from depression and "can't take a shower" without medicine?
It is also disturbing that while attempting to stigmatize gun owners, Hayward ignores all the other things that a child, or mentally unsound adult, could acquire in a home and hurt themselves or others with.
Ironically, Hayward is a physician. One would think she would be more concerned about deaths by overdoses of drugs, especially the kind of drugs the she herself is authorized to prescribe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death in 2013. Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdoses caused more deaths than motor vehicle crashes.
Of the 43,982 overdose deaths in 2013, over half of them were related to prescription drugs, a vastly larger number of deaths than caused by minors' access to firearms. According to a Washington Post story, (no friend to gun owners) in 2011 there were a total of 591 accidental gun deaths. A tragically high number to be sure, but dwarfed by the number of deaths caused by doctor prescribed drugs.
Add to this the staggering number of people who die every year as a result of mistakes made by doctors and it becomes clear that Hayward has little interest in reducing deaths, only in attacking gun owners.
A simple change to the bill would require that, in addition to firearms, people should be prosecuted if they do not lock up drugs. Of course, this same logic could be extended to people who don't safeguard knives, hammers and the keys to their car. How many juveniles die every year after gaining access to their parent's vehicles?
Hayward is also a sponsor of SB 941, the "universal background check" bill due to be voted on on Tuesday in the Senate. This is another ironic twist. You see, under that bill, it would be illegal for you to safeguard a firearm for a friend who is experiencing an episode of the very kind of depression Hayward claims makes it impossible for her to "go to work" without medication.
If a friend came to you one night and asked if you would please put his gun in your safe until his mental state improved, you would be forbidden from doing so unless you conducted a background check on yourself. Of course, it better be before 10PM or that would be impossible, and if you were a victim of one of the Oregon State Police's many delays or denials, you would have to tell your friend that the law prohibited you from helping them.
Hayward's struggle with depression and her reliance on drugs to function "normally" is serious and tragic, but her focus on attacking the rights of gun owners is misguided, counterproductive and clearly the result of a political agenda far more than a desire to reduce deaths.
Please consider contacting Senator Hayward and suggesting she concentrate on solving the problems of prescription drug overdoses and doctor errors, which cause far more deaths than accidents with firearms.
Contact info and sample message follow:
Click here for pre-written message: email@example.com
Or use the cut and paste message below.
Email : Sen.ElizabethSteinerHayward@state.or.us
Dear Senator Hayward,
It is troubling that, while seeking to punish gun owners when minors access their firearms, you have made no effort to force people to safeguard prescription drugs, tools, knives or their cars, all of which are responsible for far more deaths than firearms acquired by minors.
If you are really interested in saving lives, why not address the countless deaths caused every year by doctors' mistakes?
Why are you also promoting SB 941, which would make it illegal to safeguard a firearm for a friend who was suffering from a bout of depression?
Your policies are driven by agendas rather than any desire to reduce deaths. I urge you to reconsider these dangerous positions.
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