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Friday, October 2, 2015

Why Gun Control Is Imperative

"Yesterday’s college slaughter in Oregon, which left at least 10 dead, was the 142nd shooting incident in a school or college since Sandy Hook. As there have been only over 1,000 days during that period, this means there’s been a shooting in an American school or college about once a week. In most of those, at least one person was injured, and in about one incident a month, at least one person was killed.

"In total, about 10,000 Americans are murdered with guns each year, or more than three times the number of people killed on 9/11. It’s equivalent to lining up and shooting three baseball teams each day. That doesn’t include suicides."

(Brett Arends. "The NRA’s profit soars as gun deaths mount." msn.com. October 02, 2015.) 

Tragedy and gun violence -- it's all too common in 21st century America. We now mourn over the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Will the violence ever stop?

Still, NRA supporters rally to the cause even as more and more people support tighter gun control and restrictions on firearms. Each mass shooting fires larger debates on what or what not should be done to curb the gun violence. No one wants this horrendous climate of aggression to continue; however, the NRA continues to be opposed to any limitations on their precious Second Amendment interpretation of rights.

The NRA, while courting gun advocates, remains a powerful lobby with its change from a group that once primarily promoted sport shooting to an organization that touts the need for guns to maintain security.

Brett Arends -- author, financial columnist, and winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers award -- writes:

"Membership dues (NRA) jumped as supporters rallied to the cause. So did profits. And executive pay ran into the millions. Not bad for a charity that is exempt from taxes.... The debate about gun control has produced no concrete action. But it has shaken up gun supporters, who have rushed out to buy more weapons and sent more money to the NRA. They were already in a panic after President Obama got re-elected."

Please read Arends' full article by clicking here: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/the-nra%e2%80%99s-profit-soars-as-gun-deaths-mount/ar-AAf2tvv?li=AAa0dzB.

In the wake of yet another mass murder, rigid fingers of blame point at access to guns, the mentally unstable, lax weapons laws, insufficient defense measures, and the frenzy of media exposure for the assailant.

One thing cannot be denied: The present climate of unspeakable violence in the United States has been directly exacerbated by the availability of guns as these weapons end up in the hands of deadly criminals.

There is a compelling argument for gun control. In a poll by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in 2013, more than 90 percent of U.S. voters supported background checks for all gun buyers. A majority of those surveyed supported stricter national gun control laws. Fifty-six percent were for a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and the same percentage supported a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines, defined as those holding more than 10 rounds.

(Daniel Trotta. "Over 90 percent of Americans support gun background checks: poll."
Reuters. February 07, 2013.)

Congress would need to approve those initiatives and background checks. Mark Glazer of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, "The next step is tapping the extraordinary outrage in the country today and channeling it in a useful direction -- mainly at the senators who voted no and declined to do what 90 percent of the American public asked them to do. We'll do whatever it takes."

Gun advocates say murderers can commit heinous acts just as easily with other weapons of choice such as knives. They love to claim "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

Of course, a murderer can often kill one person or two with a knife before being stopped. Yet, achieving a large death count in a mass murder requires a gun(s). It follows that people who are worried about preventing unnecessary deaths want to limit the ability of those who possess unspeakable hatred to kill others -- naturally, they want to restrict the sheer amount of damage these deranged individuals can do by legally or illegally acquiring a gun. Sheer numbers in comparison of all deaths? In 2009-2011, for every American knife homicide there were five gun homicides.

Amanda Marcotte, blogger and author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, refutes the popular philosophy of gun advocates: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Marcotte cites the fact that no mass shootings in America during the past 30 years have been stopped by an armed civilian. In 1982, an armed civilian successfully killed a shooter, but it was only after he committed his crime. And, this is in a country where there are as many guns as people and where fully a third of people are armed.

(Amanda Marcotte. "4 Pro-Gun Arguments We're Sick of Hearing."
Rolling Stone. October 01, 2015.) 

Please read Marcotte's full article by clicking here: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/4-pro-gun-arguments-were-sick-of-hearing-20151001.

How feasible would it be to act proactively and find deranged individuals before they act out their sick crimes? The National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2013 there were an estimated 43.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with mental illness (AMI) in the past year. This represents 18.5 percent of all U.S. adults -- or 1 in 5 of American adults, most with no violent tendencies. Any check of gun ownership would be a costly, monumental task.

Ashby Jones of The Wall Street Journal writes: “Among the requirements to deny a person a gun: The buyer has to be considered a danger to himself or others. A simple diagnosis of mental illness isn't enough to prohibit a firearm sale.”

Still, Tod Robberson of the Dallas Morning News said many recent shootings only add to the list of national tragedies where a mentally unstable individual gained access to a gun and used it to kill. “If we continue to sell guns in a reckless way that allows them to fall into the hands of people who, we all can agree, shouldn’t have access to them,” he wrote, “then we will be revisiting these tragedies again and again in the future.”

(Teresa Welsh. "Views You Can Use: The Challenge of Mental Illness and Guns."
U.S. News. April 04, 2014.)

What kind of law is effective and sensible gun control? New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pushed for a gun law known as the SAFE Act after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. The law made it easier to take guns away from people who have been deemed mentally unstable. It also bans assault weapons.

Cuomo defended the New York State law, but also said that the number of people banned from owning firearms since the law took effect in 2013 could be too low.

Cuomo said that compared to the roughly 140,000 people in the state hospitalized for mental illness in a year, 34,500 seemed to be a conservative number. “I’ve heard concerns that the number is too low, because obviously there are about 110,000 people who are institutionalized, but yet could still get a gun,” Mr. Cuomo said.

It is unclear how many of those hospitalized were involuntarily committed, and therefore barred from buying guns after being entered into a federal database.

(Anemona Hartocollis and Thomas Kaplan. "Cuomo Defends Law Denying Guns to Mentally Ill People. The New York Times. October 19, 2014.)

The SAFE Act "made the penalty for illegal guns much, much higher, which is something that the gun owners were arguing for for a long time," Cuomo said. "The gun owners' argument is that it's not the legal owners, it's the illegal gun owners."

Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said there is "ample evidence" that strong laws reduce death and injury from guns. New York has the fourth-lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, she said.

In addition, supporters of the law now say they would be open to revisiting the law, particularly to make it stronger. Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, said it could be strengthened in domestic-violence cases, as well as to add a safe-storage provision.

"It was a very good bill, but no bill gets the law perfect," Kavanagh said, "and there may be changes that we want to make, and more importantly there may be additional things we can do to keep New Yorkers safe."

(Joseph Spector. "NY SAFE Act reform on the table."
democratandchronicle.com. January 09, 2015.)

Citation For Stricter Gun Control

A recent study by Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health, in conjunction with Boston Children’s Hospital, provides evidence that stricter gun control laws work in reducing gun-related homicides and suicides.

States with stronger gun laws experienced significantly lower levels of deaths involving firearms than their counterparts with loose gun laws. 

The strong correlations between firearm laws and homicide and suicide rates are definitely new talking points for gun control advocates. Further, opponents of gun control have often used the argument that the effectiveness of gun control laws has not been proven. This study, if followed by others, may take away this line of reasoning.

The study, by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health, uses a measure of state-by-state "legislative strength" of gun control policies tracked by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, including measures to:


(1) curb firearm trafficking;
(2) strengthen background checks on purchasers of firearms beyond those required by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act;
(3) ensure child safety;
(4) ban military style assault weapons; and
(5) restrict guns in public places.

It conducted a detailed statistical analysis (via a clustered Poisson regression) to examine the effect gun control laws on firearms fatalities.

Gun-related deaths were measured per 100,000 people for both homicides and suicides based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, controlling for other factors thought to be associated with gun deaths including age, sex, race and ethnicity, poverty, unemployment, college education, population density, other violence-related deaths, and firearm ownership.

In addition to the general relationship between gun safety laws and firearm deaths, the paper also suggests that increasing the number of gun safety laws increases the reductions in firearm related deaths. So the benefits just get bigger with more laws.

The authors also identify background checks as the most important type of law. And while gun rights groups have already come out in force to criticize the study's methods and lack of cause and effect conclusions, he adds that "the authors are very careful in specifying their models and have done as rigorous a paper as possible with existing data."

(Eric W. Fleegler, MD, MPH; Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH; Michael C. Monuteaux, ScD; David Hemenway, PhD; Rebekah Mannix, MD, MPH. "Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States." JAMA Internal Medicine; 173(9). 2013.)

Please read the JAMA full article by clicking here: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1661390.

Making a Sea Change

A sea change is defined as "a profound or notable transformation." Americans have made sea changes about drunken driving, cigarette smoking, and many other obvious threats to health and safety. They have realized that these things threaten our society and kill innocent citizens. They have responded by declaring the need for reform.

I believe the proliferation of guns requires an immediate sea change. We can no longer accept mass murders by guns as things that are just "bound to happen." It is imperative that the gun lobby and the gun control advocates and, yes, the NRA, work together with the aid of recent research to compromise and pass new legislation that will evoke a new, much-needed change that transforms our American culture from a group of people that sees gun violence as routine to a united force that is willing to overhaul gun legislation.

By one count, our current President has issued statements following at least 15 mass killings. It is time... no, it is past time to stop being at odds concerning guns in America. The problem of gun violence exists, and we -- conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats -- must now face it with new resolve and exert a better means of control.

I agree with President Obama as he spoke to the nation after the Oregon massacre. He said, “So tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save these lives and let these people grow up.”


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