Two questions on gun deaths – a letter to the editor

The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper. It is necessarily brief but poses two questions that I want to ask certain politicians. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you like it.

Members of a political party are saying our gun death issues are not a gun problem, but a mental health one. Two questions. 1) If that is the only reason, then why does the US have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two first world nations combined? I presume these 22 countries have people with mental health issues as well.

2) If this is only a mental health issue, then why are members of this party against expanding Medicaid which provides mental health benefits? The number one cause of gun deaths in the US is suicides. Access to a weapon plays a role and saying it does not is naive and political. All it takes is one impulsive act and it is over.

As a result, any solution has to be multi-faceted to work including better gun governance and access to mental health services as only two of the components.

We are number one

We are number one. The United States has more gun deaths than all the other top 23 civilized nations in the world COMBINED. Our rate of gun deaths is three times that of Canada, where they also like their guns. Three times the rate.

Let me say this loudly, once again – we will NEVER solve this problem until our legislators act like parents and grandparents and stop acting like people scared of the NRA focused base. What is further troubling is most gun owners do not belong to the NRA and want change. Too bad. “It is a slippery slope” we hear from the NRA funded politicians. Well, burying your child is also a slippery slope into a rectangular hole.

Quite sadly, this is no longer news in America. It has become routine. Oh-hum, more people are shot in America. What shooting will come next week? How many more teens, young adults and college students will commit suicide due to access to guns (the number one gun death in the US)? How many more adults or kids will be shot, because a four or six year old found a loaded weapon? How many more people will be shot in an argument because someone had access to a gun? How many more people will be shot in a mass shooting because someone with a cause, a beef, or a fantasy got access to a gun?

Thoughts and prayers will not solve this problem. They have become a trite way for a legislator to say I am sorry your loved one is dead but watch me dribble the basketball to stall out the game clock until this week’s episode of gun death has subsided. In other words, the politician is saying “I won’t do anything, but you have my thoughts and prayers.” God must be tired of this lack of courage. He is probably thinking “I gave you a brain and a backbone – please act.” Or, another one of God’s children, some guy named Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

This is my home

Sadly and unsuprisingly, we are mourning yet another mass shooting in America, this time in Virginia Beach. A minister and police officer uttered the above heartfelt lament about the twelve lost lives, “this is my home.”

My hearts and prayers are for our legislators to recognize that our country has a problem. I pray that they recognize too many Americans are dying. I pray that they recognize that no action is not stopping the senseless violence. I pray they recognize doing something won’t stop all shootings, but could stop some.

There are multiple factors, so a solution must be holistic. And, if these politicians will take their hands out of the NRA’s pockets long enough, they could see Americans want changes to gun governance.

Yes, it is a mental health issue, Yes, it is a crime issue. Yes, it is an entertainment violence issue. Yes, it is a lack of civility issue. But, it is most certainly a gun issue.

So, for the umpteenth time:

– Background checks on all transactions, even personal ones will save some lives.

– Longer waiting periods on all transactions will help reduce suicides and mental health related homicides.

– Licenses should come with training requirements for acquisition and renewal.

– Bullets should be codified to help wit crime-solving as requested by police.

– All new guns should have owner finger-printed triggering (reduce suicides and accudentsj shooting).

– Medical doctors and psychologists should have liberty to ask any patient if they own a gun.

– Gun related deaths must be tracked by the CDC – you cannot fix what you do not measure, but that may have been the reason the NRA has fought this for years.

– And, it should be systemstically easier for a judge to be petitioned and to temporarily suspend gun ownership as mental health testing is done.

Notice I did not take anyone’s gun away unless he cannot pass a background check or a judge suspends his right, But, I personally believe no American needs an assault style or converted weapon.

Many Americans are tired of the politicians telling us why they will not act or do something. I am tired of their stale BS that I can write for them as I have heard it far too many times. Americans are dying and their loved ones really do not care if you hurt the NRA’s feelings. Our constitutional right to live free supercedes the right to own a gun, which has been expanded beyond what the Second Amendment actualjy says.

The NRA used to be about gun safety. They must regain that mission statement. Will these actions stop gun deaths – no? But, if we can stop some it would be worth it.

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?