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.