Note to Senators and Congressman – please act on our gun death problem

After watching the President Biden’s very good speech last night asking for our support in addressing our gun death problem, I posted the following short statement on the websites for my two Republican Senators (Burr and Tillis) and Senate Minority leader McConnell. I also posted it on my Republican Congressman’s website.

I watched the President’s impassioned speech on doing something at long last to deal with our gun death problem in the US. We have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two wealthiest nations COMBINED. That is not an enviable standing. I am pleading with you to think like a parent and grandparent and do something. There are measures which are supported by the majority of gun owners that we can build from. If you and Congress fail to finally do something, it will be a disservice to Americans. Please act.

I have posted similar messages over the years, but to no avail. Maybe, just maybe, Americans have had enough with their elected officials, and can squeeze out some leadership from these folks beholden to the NRA. Sadly, these folks have not seemed to care that the majority of gun owners are OK with several changes. We need to make them care.

The majority of people want better gun governance (a redundant plea)

Another week, another mass shooting in America. Ho-hum. Another day, more suicides by impetuous acts and more homicides by uncivil arguers. Boring. And, of course, we have the inevitable accidental shooting by a curious child and discovered weapon. This does not seem to bother anyone, either.

The following is a repeat of post from three years ago. It is a variation of a post I have written countless times. Yet, we do not seem to care. I am glad the president is going after ghost guns, but that is only part of the problem. When the leading US gun death cause is suicide, by far, you would think legislators, especially Republican ones, will stop counting the NRA donations and do something about this obvious problem.

From an article called “Polls find Americans mostly are supportive of stricter laws on guns” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn of the Raleigh News and Observer, please note the following cited survey results. Note these results have been fact checked by the paper’s Fact Checking Project.

– Gallup’s poll from August, 2019 noted “61% would support a ban on semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.”

– The Civitas Institute (a conservative policy group) poll from September, 2019 showed “58% of respondents saying gun laws were not strict enough.” Note of the Civitas poll respondents, “48% either owned a gun or had someone in their home who owned a gun.”

– A Quinnipac University poll from May, 2019 showed “61% of Americans support stricter gun laws. The same poll showed 94% of Americans support required background checks for gun buyers. And, 77% of those polled support ‘requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun.’”

– In 2017, Politifact Wisconsin “found multiple previous polls citing support for background checks ranging from 84% to 94%.”

The numbers 58% and 61% are meaningful, but let’s focus on the 94% (or even 84% to 94%) of respondents who want required background checks and the 77% who want a license before hand.

These are consequential majorities. Earlier this week, the Houston Chief of Police challenged his two Texas Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to act after yet another police officer was killed.

The NRA has spoken. Now, we need to set their ardent, sales focused rhetoric aside and act sensibly. Just the two items highlighted above will help – background checks and pre-buy licensing. No loopholes. Cars require ownership and driving licenses to operate. Yet, they are not designed to kill.

I am long-ago tired of the standard “thoughts and prayers” line offered by legislators followed by “now is not the time to discuss changes.” Since people are dying everyday by suicide and other reasons, waiting for a time with no deaths will not happen. Further, the mass shootings of more than a few victims are happening with alarming frequency.

To be brutally frank, Democrats should push this issue to the nth degree. Maybe, the Senate and president will act. It matters not who pats themselves on the back – JUST DO SOMETHING! And, these legislators are in my “thoughts and prayers” to actually act like the parents and grandparents we hope they would be.

Truisms of not great importance, mixed in with few that are

A few miscellaneous truisms:

  • a character killed off a soap opera is really not dead; they do come back in new permutations.
  • suicides are more prevalent in homes that have a gun on the premises; all it takes is one impulsive act.
  • the soap actor who played said deceased character is not married to the dead person role, so they may come back in a new role
  • the most prominent reason for gun deaths in America is suicide, not terrorism, not violent crime related.
  • a horror movie bad guy never dies, even when he does; the code word is “sequel.”
  • accidental shootings are one thing we should be able to avoid, yet a sad search to do is to Google “Four-year old kills six-year old” and read the related stories.
  • per Black comedian Chris Rock, a Black crew member on “Star Trek” should not beam down with Captain Kirk, as he is not coming back. Rock is heard to say in his routine, “Brother, don’t go.”
  • allowing guns on college campuses is a horrible idea, as college campuses have a higher rate of depression than in general society – again all it takes is one impulsive act.
  • when the bad guy is shot in a crime show, the police don’t remove his weapon; so someone else tends to get shot.
  • the surveys I have read convey most gun owners want better gun governance laws; yet the gun making lobby is too overwhelming to allow things to get done.
  • if a hospital, police or federal agent team includes a male and female, there will be future episodes of mutual attraction.
  • my own survey tells me I have heard too many “thoughts and prayers” or “it is a slippery slope” comments from legislators who want to stall to let the temperature for change abate. To me, our country needs more political courage to do needed things to make us safer.
  • if you watch Hallmark movies, no lead character is ever divorced; he or she is widowed, often with a child. I guess there are no greeting cards for divorces.
  • one of the things that scares more than me about the increased civil unrest in our country is we have more guns than people.
  • movies on channels with commercials will start immediately following the end of the previous movie’s credits finish – and you wonder why we binge watch.
  • there are changes we can make that people from the two parties can agree, if we can just get them to forget who put the money in their pocket.
  • finally, Chris Rock has a good solution for gun deaths – make the bullets cost $5,000 a piece. Shooters will become more judicious in shooting someone.

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?

 

 

You see something, say something only works…

It is hard to get involved when it could be indicting of someone. But, we are encouraged to do so, if we see looming danger, a threat to many people. The term often used is “if you see something, say something.”

On several occasions the last year or so, people called in to local or federal officials to register concern over the mass murderer who killed seventeen students in Parkland, Florida. Some even explicitly noted they feared he would shoot up a school. Yet, only a modicum of steps were taken.

Law enforcement needs to recognized how hard it is to get involved. It is harder when the possible backlash of the person being accused exists. I realize we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. With that said, the specificity and rationale for the concerns had veracity.

As people dole out reasons and look for single answer solutions for these and other kinds of gun deaths, we must understand how the holes in the Swiss cheese aligned to let a killer pass through.

Finally, we should recognize that 2/3 of all 30,000 plus annual gun deaths in America are suicides. We must look at all reasons for gun deaths (not just the mass shooting of the month) to craft good solutions to make us safer, including better governing the requirements to get and own a weapon. So, if someone takes the time to call a law enforcement or social worker official with concern over a person who is a threat to themselves or others, please exhaust all means of investigation and make sure we have resources where most effective. Otherwise, people may die.

 

Yet another gun story

The title represents a quote from a local news broadcast in my home city – yet another gun story. America’s obsession with guns continues full tilt and we cannot expect anything to be done about it at the federal level for the time being.

We have a problem with gun deaths that does not look like it will abate anytime soon. To discover for yourself, for one month, count the number of gun death stories in your local newspaper or on your favorite news station.

Yet, we have one political party and a few in the other that do not recognize the gun problem for what it is. These folks are backed by one of the more strident lobbyist groups in the NRA.

While these legislators don’t recognize the problem, most gun owners do. Most gun owners do not belong to the NRA, which tends to care more about gun sales where they used to care more about gun safety.

A few questions still remain unanswered:

– why has one political party prevented funding of the study of gun deaths by the Centers for Disease Control?

– why have we not lengthened the waiting period for guns when experts have said it will reduce the probability of suicide, the most significant gun death by far?

– why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases?

– why did this political party lead Congress to eliminate people on social security mental disability from the watch list for background checks?

– why do we not require every new weapon with finger print control to reduce children deaths or the death of the owner?

– why do we not codify every bullet to help in solving crimes?

Please note, with the exception of limiting people who don’t pass background checks and elongating waiting periods, none of these suggestions will greatly hinder the rights of Americans to buy guns.

But, we should not stop there. We need more civility in our discourse. We need every gun owner to complete a safety course. We need to improve areas of poverty where crime fills a void. We need to condemn pseudo-news and entertainment sites when they use hyperbole. Alex Jones of Infowars said the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax – that is just asinine and offensive.

Let me close with a provocative statement. One of the reasons shooting deaths by police officers are increased is these officers recognize that more people are armed and they have to make quick judgements that are sometimes fatal.

We have a gun problem in America. Common sense steps are achievable that will make a difference. One thing is obvious – doing nothing has not.