Brady chapter gives Kansas Citians forum to speak out
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- Published: Thursday, 28 August 2014 10:00
- Written by Marcia Montgomery, Community Editor
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Sixty-one years ago, on Aug. 20, 1953, the Koch family’s lives changed forever. A purportedly unloaded gun went off and killed 14-year-old Leo Koch.
“This story has been told a million times now all over America,” said Harold Koch, Leo’s older brother by two years.
Just months after celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, Leo had gone to a friend’s house, where another friend was also present. While passing a gun around, it fired and hit Leo.
“There’s a rising tide of people who want to stop this kind of violence and it comes in many forms, but it all goes back to the wrong people owning guns and the negligence with guns,” Koch said. “I deliberately don’t use the word ‘accident,’ it’s negligence.”
He says when guns and children are in a house, it’s a recipe for disaster.
“What people need to understand is that when they read about instances [of shootings] in the newspaper, this is not just ink on paper; these are people and children, their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters,” Koch said. “We’ve become desensitized to this.”
Northeast Kansas Brady Chapter
Two months ago, Koch and three others founded the Northeast Kansas Brady Chapter, an offshoot of the national Brady Campaign. After an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which left James Brady with a serious head wound, Brady and his wife Sarah started the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. James Brady passed away Aug. 4 at the age of 73.
The local Kansas chapter has now grown to more than 40 members. It has a website (www.bradycampaign.org/content/northeast-kansas-brady-chapter) and is on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northeast-Kansas-Brady-Chapter/783960121634674).
“We have a lot of important, informational articles for people and I think that’s one of our main sources of new membership that’s building so quickly,” Koch said.
Koch, a former psychologist, has been talking about gun safety for many years; he has written thousands of letters to the editor.
“Those individuals who suffer from this sink back into the background and people go on with their lives, but when you write letters to the editor, it lets them know other people are on the same page with them,” he said.
Following the three murders in April at the Jewish Community Campus and Village Shalom, Koch says he became outraged and realized he needed to do more than write letters. So he; Loren Stanton, a former writer for the Kansas City Star; Paul Temme, who was shot at during the rampage at the Campus; and Susan Blaney, a former judge, founded the local Brady Chapter.
Koch said he wants to emphasize that the Brady Campaign does not advocate taking guns away from people. “Brady gives you a national stage to help influence gun safety policies and promote gun safety, how to reduce gun violence. There are 330 million guns in the United States.”
He said Brady also promotes the ASK program, www.askingsaveskids.org. Its motto is one question could save your child’s life. Talk to the parents of the friends of your children and ask them, “Is there a gun in the home and does it have a lock on it?”
“The fact is studies point out one in three homes that have children in them have a gun and most of them live with a loaded, unlocked gun in the house,” Koch said. “Every year, thousands of these kids are killed or injured.”
He goes on to cite other statistics:
• American children die by guns 11 times more often than chidren in other high-income countries.
• An average of eight children and teens under age 20 are killed by guns every day.
• 80 percent of unintentional deaths of children under 15 occur in the home.
• You’re more likely to shoot someone in your family than to shoot an intruder.
• Many times, people are shot to death with their own guns.
• There are almost as many shootings in the United States as there are car deaths
Purpose of Brady
Koch said the Brady Campaign does not preach that people belonging to gun organizations are bad people. In fact, Brady has pointed out that the great majority of gun dealers are responsible people.
“But there are one or two gun dealers called ‘bad apples’ in almost every area. These gun dealers don’t do background checks; they do a veneer type of background check,” he explained. “So there’s an important question that needs to be asked time and again whenever there’s a shooting: Where did that gun come from? And statistics show that these bad apples supply maybe 60 percent of these guns that are used in crime.
“The idea is not to take guns away from people; the idea is to have better policies, background checks. Brady is trying to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. A huge percentage of guns are sold online, which clearly avoid any regulation.”
One statistic from the Brady Campaign website may surprise people: Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA (National Rifle Association) members.
So why don’t we have them?
Koch says this is exactly why the Brady Campaign is so important — it gives people across the nation policies on which to speak out with knowledge and authority.
“Individually these large gun organizations who have brainwashed millions of people can defeat any of us on their own,” he said. “They have slogans like ‘you’re trying to take away my gun’ or ‘only bad people will have guns.’ But the fact is, do you want someone who’s involved in domestic violence to have a gun? Do you want some child to have a gun?”
Koch pointed out that the state of Missouri used to have background checks, and during that time statistics showed gun injuries and deaths were down considerably. But when Missouri changed that law in 2000, “the statistics went through the ceiling.”
“I’ve been supporting Brady with a check every year, but finally with the murders at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, I realized that a check is not enough,” Koch said. “I have to join in, I have to learn more, I have to have a way to help people understand they’re not alone.
“I don’t want my brother to die in vain and I don’t want the memory of my mom and dad to be that this tragedy can go untested.”