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Saturday, November 28, 2015

"Enough Is Enough" -- Gun Violence Again and Again

On November 27, 2015, Robert Lewis Dear, a 57-year-old man from North Carolina, burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and opened fire, launching several gun battles and an hours-long standoff with police as patients and staff took cover under furniture and inside locked rooms. By the time the shooter surrendered, three people had been killed -- including a police officer -- and nine others were wounded.

And, so, once again, America has suffered a horrible tragedy at the hands of a maniac with a gun. And, in the bloody aftermath, once again, President Barack Obama pleaded, "The United States has to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."

Of course, the gun lobby will fire up the usual arguments in unyielding defense of their Second Amendment rights all the while declaring gun control proponents are out to take their guns away.

Once more, we will hear gun advocates repeating familiar refrains: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people" and "Murderers can commit heinous acts just as easily with other weapons of choice such as knives."

And, naturally, the NRA will continue to blame those who support gun control for overreacting to the "means" and not centering on the perpetrators of crime.

So, most likely, the national debate on violent gun crime will intensify until enough time passes that allows the issue to return to "simmer" without reform until the next mass shooting reignites the argument.

I, for one, agree with President Obama. Enough is enough. Citizens and lawmakers can no longer ignore the obvious truth. America must make a sea change -- a profound transformation -- to help stop gun violence. We have chosen to make many other sea changes about deadly threats to public safety such as drunken driving, drug abuse, and cigarette smoking. It is past time to face the facts. The killing fields of gun violence are teeming with innocent victims whose spirits beg for needed reform.

We must 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 the American culture from a group of people that sees gun violence as routine to a united force that is willing to overhaul gun legislation.

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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.)

The shock and heartbreak of gun violence tear the very fabric of domestic tranquility in the nation as shooting after shooting kills innocent Americans who merely want to practice peacefully their guaranteed pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Mayhem, tragedy, and murder -- these are the all-too frequent outcomes perpetrated by the angry, the insane, an the quick-tempered who pick up a gun and use bullets to satiate their evil desires.

Let us consider the absolute irresponsibility of continuing to ignore seeking real and lasting solutions to gun violence. Simply letting gun control be a frequently debated, hot-button issue without actually committing to the necessary work and compromise needed to correct the causes of the violence is turning a blind eye to mass murder.

Those on both sides of the issue of gun control can agree upon one basic tenant: Law-abiding citizens must be protected from those who mean to take their lives with bullets. It is paramount that the needless killing stops, no matter that both groups have lobbied Congress for decades to craft legislation in their respective favors. I encourage lawmakers to throw out their unyielding attitudes and help forge a new, better gun mentality.

Continued madness from elected officials that may contribute to a gun violence mentality fuels a rigid, unyielding Congress. Believe it or not, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin recently tweeted (November 19, 2015) that "Jesus would fight for our Second Amendment and explains in her new book that "Jesus is a proponent of carrying" because she found a Bible verse (Luke 22:36) where Christ seemingly encourages his apostles to procure a couple of swords.

I feel confident that the Jesus I have been taught to worship had no desire to carry. He was much too busy spreading love and peace to pull the trigger on his enemies and opponents. To me, the echoes of the President's words ring true and reverberate in a darkening, dangerous landscape. "Enough is enough." Despite the fervent feelings of gun advocates and anti-gun advocates, we must do a better job of stopping bulleted violence. I know Jesus did weep while walking our planet, and I know he must be weeping now as he endures the senseless slaughter of innocent American human beings.
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