What Can We Do About Gun Violence
If you access any kind of news media, you can’t avoid the discussion about gun violence, second amendment rights, trying to blame the mentally ill and so on. McCuistion TV (mccuistiontv.com if you wish to watch them) recently did a 2 part series on this and I was one of the panelists. No matter what your view of guns, there are some important things for you to know to better take care of yourself and your loved ones. Many people love having guns for hunting, while many others feel the need to have guns for self-defense. However, of all those people who are gun owners, less than 3% of them have been diagnosed with mental illness, compared with about 10 – 15% of the population as a whole at any given time. Clearly the mentally ill are less likely to commit gun violence than the population as a whole. One of the things that is quite clear is that the vast majority of gun violence does not come from some stranger out on the street or entering your home or committing some kind of mass gun violence. If you get beyond the headlines for those ‘mass shootings’ usually there is a personal connection as well as a personal agenda in there somewhere. Certainly that is not true all the time but those random kinds of events are much less likely. What tends to not get publicized is that of all the gun deaths in this country – almost 40,000 in 2016, over 60% of them were suicides, and almost another 20% of them were related to conflicts in the home, and about 3% were related to accidental firings. Thus the greatest risk from guns comes from within the home, so not too surprisingly, the more guns people have, the more deaths there are, but most of them are still in the home. I found it appalling that the NRA many years ago got the Dickey Amendment passed that prohibited the CDC from researching the whole issue of gun violence and its causes, and influenced cutting funds for CDC research. Even worse, they had managed to get a law passed in Florida that doctors should not be allowed to discuss the dangers of weapons, especially guns, in the home. Fortunately the physicians took it to the Florida Supreme court and got it overturned on the basis of it infringing on their first amendment rights. It also infringes on a doctor’s responsibility when they are concerned about the welfare of patients, to teach them some important safety issues about guns.
Since you and your loved ones are 4 x more likely to be killed or injured by a gun in your home than elsewhere, I want to educate you about that in this column. First of all if you have children, until they are old enough to be trained about guns and knives and how to handle them safely, weapons should be kept unloaded and locked where they cannot find them, and kids are amazing at finding things in unexpected places. There is a far greater chance that your child could get injured or killed with that gun than that you will need it to defend yourself against a home intrusion. Second, if there is anyone in your family who is significantly depressed – especially if they are suicidal – you do not want to have loaded guns laying around. Third, if someone in the home is abusing drugs or demented and confused so they have poor judgment, you don’t want weapons easily accessible. In all these cases, by the way, you should lock up not just guns, but other things that could be used for self-harm like knives and medications – even over the counter ones – that could be overdosed on. This is not at all an issue of a right to own a gun, but a responsibility to protect people who are not functioning at their best from harming themselves if at all possible. If you are at risk for harming yourself, give that gun to someone until you are doing better. The rules about guns and knives should also be followed if there is someone in the home who is violent or aggressive.
If you are going to own a gun, take instructions and learn to use it properly. I am a firm believer that people who have a car need to learn to drive it properly and get licensed and should not be driving if they are impaired from any number of causes and that the same standards should apply to using a gun. Well-handled both of them are fine to have around. Poorly handled, both of them can lead to dire consequences, both causing about 40 thousand deaths a year in America, and both also causing a lot of other injuries above and beyond death. If you want or need to have a gun, or a car, just be sure you learn to handle it properly and in a way that protects you and others from unintentional harm.
BTW, if you really think the NRA is about second amendment rights, you might want to look at who the major officers are. It is no longer people just wanting to get together and enjoy some competitive shooting or hunting, it is the gun manufacturers – defending their right to sell you guns whether you need them or not. Sounds like some of our TV commercials now, doesn’t it?