Re: “Commentary: Exploiting tragedy to demand more gun control impedes real solutions” (Sept. 15):

The column by Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, begs for a response.

President Obama, Hillary Clinton and others did speak out following the recent shooting deaths in Virginia. What Cox failed to mention is that the most significant voice was that of a victim’s father. He was not “politicizing” the moment but rather responding as a grieving parent.

The NRA has taken to blaming the mentally ill for gun violence carnage. Some high-profile murders have been perpetrated by the mentally impaired, but annual data presents a different perspective:

Of 30,000-plus gun deaths, over 20,000 are suicides.

 One-fifth of accidental gun deaths are children.

 Over half of mass-shooting incidents are domestic homicides, usually women and families.

 We have five times the number of gun fatalities than neighboring Canada.

Cox states that the NRA supports use of the federal criminal background checking system to identify the at-risk mentally ill. Why, then, does the NRA oppose background checks on private and gun show transactions, which comprise 40 percent of total sales? Do not criminals and the mentally impaired purchase guns through these avenues?

It is ludicrous to criticize others for working with the political system to advocate for change. The NRA has used its influence very effectively to bully elected officials and silence those who disagree with their agenda.

Varied solutions will be needed to address the public health problem. Strengthening the mental health system is an important one. So is instituting universal background checks.

We have the opportunity to make a difference. Maine Moms Demand Action is gathering signatures for a November 2016 referendum requiring background checks for all gun transactions excepting those within families.

It’s time to take reasonable steps to better protect our communities and those we love.

Therese Johnson