A Child’s Right to be Free From Harm

By: Betsy Pownall

Children have five constitutional rights: the right to education, health, family life, play and recreation, and to be protected from abuse and harm.

Over the years, there have been laws enacted to protect our children. Here are a few of the most recent:

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was enacted in 1974 and reauthorized over the years –  most recently in 2019. 

CAPTA is the largest and broadest legislation in U.S. history to protect children. 

By focusing on the fair, ethical and legal treatment of children, CAPTA is intended to keep them safe from all forms of abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.

The Child Protection Act of 1984 removed child pornography from the First Amendment rights, thereby making it criminal for people to create and distribute child pornography whether or not they are making a profit.

THE Pro-Children Act of 2001 imposes restrictions on smoking in facilities where federally funded children’s services are provided.

In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed firearm homicides as the leading cause of death among US children and adolescents.

Death by firearm has surpassed motor vehicle deaths and those caused by other injuries. 

In a study done by Kaiser Family Foundation, it was found that firearms account for 20% of all child and teen deaths in the U.S., compared to an average of less than 2% in similarly large and wealthy nations. 

Our children are at great risk every time there is a shooting in a public place or school. 

There is a distancing that occurs in Washington, DC. Much is discussed about the perpetrator and the (usually mental health) problems the perpetrator was facing.

Focus is placed on the location of the shooting, the victims, and socioeconomic and psychological factors of both the perpetrator and victims.

No mass shooting is the same. However, in every case, there is one common denominator, and that is the gun. 

And it is the one ingredient in these shootings that our legislators seem to refuse to acknowledge. 

Why is the owner of something as lethal as a gun not required to go through licensing, registration and purchase gun owner insurance, as one would to an automobile?

While we have a Congress too nervous to pass comprehensive gun control legislation, our children are dying. 

We hear that we need more mental health services, that schools need more protection, that people need to know how to secure themselves in the face of violence. 

What we do not hear are our legislators, en masse, calling for stricter controls of guns. 

Gun violence is a public health issue, and our children’s constitutional rights are being violated. 

Here are steps you can take now to help. 

Write your Oregon U.S. senators and representatives. Oregon US Senators such as: Jeff Merkley, R 

Eugene: 405 East 8th Avenue, Ste. 2010; 97401 (541) 465-6750

Portland: 121 SW Salmon Street, Ste. 1400; 97204 (503) 326-3386

Ron Wyden, D

Eugene:  405 East 8th Avenue, Ste. 2020; 97401 (541) 431-0229

Portland: 911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630; 97232 (503) 326-7525

Join and/or donate to local and national gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, Mom’s Demand Action or Ceasefire Oregon

If you have investments, meet with your financial counselor and examine your portfolio.

You can be creative with your investments by moving money from gun manufacturers to other areas that reflect your values.

And finally, educate yourself. Read and listen. Talk. It takes a village to raise and protect a child.