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Silverman: Gun violence leaves us all hostages to fate. Some now worry about having kids.

America’s birth rate is already declining, and current events are leading many to question whether parenthood even makes sense.

There is no perfect moment to be a parent, but modern times pose new problems. Amid the contagions of firearms and COVID, with massive inflation and limited affordable housing, this is a daunting year to start a family. America has faced other tough times.

Craig Silverman

With World War II looming, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy reportedly said: “My wife and I have given birth to nine children who have become hostages to fate. What kind of America they and their daughters will take over from their fathers is something we all share, (and it is) a matter of serious concern.”  

As it happened, Kennedy’s three oldest sons would eventually suffer violent deaths.

Few American parents have nine children. Most now stop at one or two. America’s birth rate has dropped substantially since 2007. Japan has experienced negative growth for several decades as its adults are stressed out and overcrowded. Without immigrant replenishment, Japan, as we know it, could end. Other countries share this risk.

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JFK was assassinated when I was in elementary school. During my junior high years, MLK and then RFK were shot dead. John Lennon and Ronald Reagan got shot when I was in law school. Alan Berg was slaughtered by an assault weapon when I was a young Denver Deputy DA.

Shortly after I first became a father 23 years ago, the deadliest school massacre in America’s history at that point happened at Columbine. Invited that night on CNBC’s Rivera Live to provide perspective, I spoke about homicide prosecutions, Colorado gun laws and how our state was suffering.

Since Columbine, more than 311,00 American students have directly suffered the life-changing trauma from gun violence at their schools. Secondary traumatic stresses impact those of us studying Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, Charleston, Parkland, Pittsburgh, Uvalde, Buffalo, Boulder and Aurora. And the list never ends. 

Prospective parents following current events feel anxiety, irritability and sadness that can diminish any desire to have kids. Gun violence isn’t the only negative to consider when contemplating parenthood now. 

Our collective mental health is frazzled. Alcohol sales are at all-time highs. Urban areas are crime-riddled, overcrowded and expensive. Affordable child care and formula for infants are scarce. Homelessness is rampant. Climate change is real. So is inflation. 

Another real turnoff for potential parents is COVID. In 2021, Colorado had 61,970 births, down from 70,777 births in 2007. The decrease happened despite Colorado having more women of childbearing age. Enrollment in Colorado public schools keeps declining, too. 

America’s gun problems are obvious. More and bigger firearms cannot possibly be the answer. 

Regulating assault weapons works in California, but hasn’t yet happened in Colorado. Former Colorado state Senate President John Morse is furious that Democrats won’t ban assault weapons. But Colorado politicians are frightened, having seen what happened to recalled rising star Morse in 2013 after background checks were mandated and 30-round magazines were prohibited.

The Uvalde murderer, age 18, carried newly purchased assault weapons (AR-15-style) and seven 30-round magazines. Similarly armed with assault weaponry were monstrous murderers at Boulder’s King Soopers and Aurora’s movie theater.  

Two years ago this upcoming Friday, Isabella Thallas, age 21, was slaughtered via assault weapon in the Ballpark neighborhood of Denver. That atrocity should never be forgotten. Broken were the hearts of Bella’s loving parents, sister and boyfriend.

American parents pay with our children’s lives for gun merchant profits generated by marketing 20 million high-priced AR-15 style rifles. During the past 15 years, following expiration of federal prohibitions, the number of assault weapons in America has increased more than 150%. Meanwhile, American births have dropped 20%. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Having children is an important decision. The health of the mother is paramount. Abortion bans will increase deaths for pregnant women. Pregnancies have always been risky. Horrific fetal defects jeopardizing mother and child happen all too often. 

Thank goodness women enjoy reproductive freedom in Colorado. Complete Republican control nationally could produce federal laws criminalizing abortion, while protecting assault weapons. Why risk getting pregnant if it means you or your doctor may be prosecuted? Why turn control of your body over to the government and vigilantes

Colorado’s southeast neighbors, Oklahoma and Texas, are now competing to see which is most anti-abortion, and pro-assault weapons

Northeastern Colorado, which threatened secession over 2013’s modest gun reforms, is represented by congressman Ken Buck, who displays an American flag-painted AR-15 as a taunting trophy in his Capitol office. Buck recently and repulsively touted assault weapons’ utility deterring feisty chicken-harassing racoons. 

Colorado’s embarrassing Rep. Lauren Boebert tops Buck for firearm fetishization. She does not argue we need assault weapons for racoons or self-defense, but to fight tyrannical government. Boebert even featured her own smiling young children in a Christmas photo, fully armed with powerful rifles. 

What kind of America are we bequeathing to our children and grandchildren with this kind of leadership? If Team Boebert/Trump takes full power, and odds are it will, our American experiment is imperiled. Many will conclude that starting a family now is just not ideal.

Until Colorado and America ban assault weapons, expect more mass casualty shootings at schools and elsewhere. Data proves it. Gun merchants don’t care. They profit from expensive guns and pricey ammunition.  

Parents care. We demand our country restore its grip on democracy and common-sense gun reform. If not, many Americans will stop having children, unwilling to be hostages to fate or assault weapons.


Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C. and is host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.


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