Let’s fix the larger gun death problems

Mass shootings are very tragic and heart wrenching. Homicides are also tragic. Yet, the biggest gun problem and another tangible and avoidable problem make up between 60% and 70% of annual gun deaths in America. The lion’s share of gun deaths in America are suicides. Last year, over 23,000 of the 38,000 plus gun deaths were suicides. This ratio is not unusual and tracks pretty well year in and year out.

The other much smaller, but more avoidable gun death problem is accidental shootings. And, tragically the ones doing the shooting or getting killed are children who come across a weapon. To lose a child is the worst nightmare I could possibly imagine. But, to lose one because you did not put away your gun, is even more traumatic. The gun owner has to live with the guilt. While accidental shootings are about 2% of gun deaths, they seem to be ones we should be able to avoid irrespective of one’s fervor for the 2nd Amendment.

After each mass shooting, there is concern registered by kids and parents about not letting this happen again. The people for and against more gun control go into camps with some saying now is not the time, while the others asking when is the time. I must give a huge amount of credit to the Parkland kids and others around the country who are forcing action. But, outside of a little lip service in Washington, nothing tangible happens. They may regret inaction come November.

These past few months, the barest of minimum change was done, but there was the President of the United States speaking before the NRA convention last week. He was the one who taunted Congress representatives for not standing up to the NRA. These were obviously just words, which we should be used to by now. With this said, I do give kudos to Florida who acted a little more demonstrably than DC.

To prevent more suicides, background checks on all sales with elongated waiting periods are needed. Doctors must be permitted to ask patients if there is a gun in the house as the propensity for suicide is much higher than one without. All it takes is an impulse and it is over. We must add more psychologists and counselors to schools. The greater gun risk is a depressed student taking his or her life. And, we should expand Medicaid in the remaining 18 states along with its mental health benefits.

As for the accidental shootings, the majority of states require guns to be locked up at home, but why do not all states have such a requirement? I have shared this before, but I asked my father-in-law to lock up his weapon, as I did not want his grandkids around a loaded weapon. He did so. One idea that has merit is requiring a finger printed trigger, where only the owner can use the weapon.

Please note that none of the above speaks of taking weapons away. These steps would help reduce the number of suicides and accidental shootings. Even if the number is only 100, 500 or 1,000, those are lives saved. Isn’t this what it’s all about?



11 thoughts on “Let’s fix the larger gun death problems

  1. Dear Keith,

    If one was truly pro-life, your sensible solutions should be a no brainer. It will take a bit longer, but I genuinely believe that once these young kids become older, they will step up to the plate to do the right thing. As you said, no one is talking about taking anyone’s guns away.

    And again, good for you for dealing with your Father-in-Law like you did. We all need to step up when we see something that needs doing and say something/ do something.

    I am so ashamed about all the GOP Senators who are mum about a White House staffer who dished on Senator McCain. What are they but cowardly worms who can’t even stand up for one of their colleagues. Where is Senator Lindsay Graham?

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, thanks. My father-in-law was a reasonable man. He left us too soon.

      With 1/5 people exposed to depressive thoughts at some point, coupled with a mean-spirited social media and teen hormones, all it takes is a teen or young adult to find a gun and make an impulsive act.

      As for the spineless ones, people take after their leader. If the leader is a jerk, then jerky behavior is tolerated. On the converse, if they are civil, that behavior ensues. To be frank, one can be opinionated without being an ass. Keith

  2. Yes Keith, that is the point and all gun owners should be responsible for every life in his house and have all weapons locked safely away. I realise police have a lot to do but perhaps they could check that all new gun owners have a gun safe or other secure place for guns.

    • David, I think at some level all gun owners would be comfortable with a law requiring locking away their guns if they have kids or grandkids. That is not too much to ask. Some laws have been passed or not passed based on the “slippery slope” argument of leading to further restrictions. I frankly think that abets more gun deaths. If there are sensible changes that can be done that protect more than a few, then they should be considered and done.

      The one that irked me the most is when some states banned a doctor from asking a depressed patient if there was a gun in the house.


  3. Note to Readers: One of my frustrations regarding the lack of tangible action is I see the discussion after a mass shooting being akin to a basketball game. The NRA and its supporters in Congress have the lead and want to run out the clock as the victims’ families rally to do something. If the NRA can run out the clock, they win until the next mass shooting.

    We must divorce this thinking from mass shooting events and continue the pressure to do tangible change. A few lives here and a few lives there can be saved. It begins to add up. This is not a game and people die.

  4. Your ideas are all very sensible and none pose any level of threat to the 2nd Amendment ‘rights’ claimed by so many on both sides of the aisle. So what is the problem? Why are these safety measures being heeded? Good post!

  5. I agree with much of your essay. I haven’t checked your stats, but you may be right about suicides being the “lion’s share of gun deaths” in the U.S. However, I don’t agree that suicides are the “biggest gun problem” (nor accidental deaths by guns). Society should do everything it can to discourage a person from taking his own life, but in the end, this is a personal decision. Murder is not. The biggest gun “problem” are murders by guns, not suicides, because the victims were deprived of the luxury of choice.

    Also, here is a question for you. Since you conclude with “none of the above speaks about taking weapons away,” why do you even mention this? Do any of those on the side of gun control (Brady Campaign, #NeverAgain, political liberals, etc.) argue that we need to do this? Obviously, my question is partly rhetorical, but I’m interested in your answer. Thanks!

    • Welcome and thanks for your well thought out comment. Suicides have averaged between 60% to 67% over the past several years.

      My point on suicides is people make impulsive decisions when depressed. This is one reason guns on college campuses is so scary as students have a higher rate of depression than general society.

      But, you are right, homicides that occur every day are a problem as well. I often tell people to count the number of gun deaths in their newspaper for a week. They will be surprised at how many.

      As for the slippery slope, the NRA is powerful in its messaging and lobbying – don’t take people’s guns away. So, while I support restrictions on assault weapons, there are many things that can and should be done that will make a dent.

      Doing nothing is obviously not working. Thanks again for your comment. I appreciate it greatly. Keith

  6. My pleasure (I’m an old fart who muses, as well). My rhetorical question about “taking people’s guns” comes out of frustration. You said it with your observation “the NRA is powerful in its messaging and lobbying.” The NRA, sadly, controls the gun conversation. I’d like to shift the conversation to the other side. “Slippery slope” is a gun lobby soundbite that’s been very effective in quelling efforts at stronger gun control in America. So is “take my gun away” and “banning all guns.” I see these clichés all the time on social media forums during gun control discussions. Too many times, sensible proposals for strict federal background checks, registration and licensing, closing of the gun show loophole, and a ban on assault-style weapons morphs into variations of “Ban All Guns.” These are scare tactics effectively employed on people new to or unfamiliar with the gun debate. The “slippery slope” argument, however, has no basis in logic or historical precedent… unless you consider that, in the past few decades, the slope has slipped toward LIGHTER gun control.

    So, hopefully, you can see my frustration when I once again see a comment like “Please note that none of the above speaks of taking weapons away.” It’s like an argument for marijuana legalization and reading “Please note that I’m not arguing to also legalize heroin.”

    Thanks for listening. I like your blog.

    • From one old fart to another. May I call you Pete? Your points are sound. The slippery slope has indeed sloped toward fewer gun restrictions. I am hopeful the young folks who can show up to vote. Keith

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