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Protecting the victims of gun violence requires mental health background checks for firearms sales and keeping violent offenders behind bars

Regarding your editorial on President Obama's State of the Union plea for Congress to act on gun control, Marylander's deserve much more than a vote, they deserve true representation ("We deserve a vote," Feb. 17).

The editorial highlighted the president's call for the voices of the victims of gun violence be heard, and it denounced the NRA, Republicans and certain Democrats for opposing legislation that would ban military-style assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The recent tragedies in Arizona, Connecticut and Chicago struck a chord with most Americans, and I believe most Americans want to see Congress and state governments enact common-sense legislation that would make American families safer.

This same impulse led to the now expired federal assault weapons ban of 1994. Studies were conducted regarding the law's usefulness, but the reality was that it had no real effect on most violent crime because criminals do not typically use the kind of firearms targeted by the act to commit their crimes.

In fact, the majority of criminals prefer easily concealable handguns, many of which are stolen. Most Americans realize it is futile to go down that road again, especially when there are better solutions out there.

Although it is often reported that Republicans and Democrats who are intimidated by the NRA are the ones opposing tougher gun legislation, the reality is the majority of Americans do not want to see limitations on law-abiding gun owners, they want to see real solutions. And it is their voices that are being drowned out by a liberal media that skews what is reported and how events are portrayed.

A recent independent statewide poll of registered voters found overwhelming majorities opposed limiting the firearms available for personal self-defense to those used for hunting. These responses completely coincide with FBI crime statistics showing that the weapons politicians most want to ban are not those used in the majority of crimes in committed in Maryland or nationally.

The poll was also clear regarding what voters think should be done. A majority of those surveyed thought strengthening mental health background checks for people who want to buy guns would be more effective. Strengthening mental health reporting could be accomplished by several proposed bills in Maryland's legislature that would require better communication among agencies regarding mental health concerns.

Poll respondents also agreed overwhelmingly that violent repeat offenders who use firearms in the commission of their crimes should be required to serve their entire sentences. Focusing on keeping repeat offenders off the street would be the biggest solution to actually reducing violent crime.

Most Marylanders can see through the politics to where real change need to happen — and their voices also deserve to be heard.

Joseph Graves, White Marsh

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