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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Guns n' Thorns

Recently, the issue of gun control has been a hot button issue, what with the recent Naval Yard shooting that occurred a little over two weeks ago.  The headlines seem to be saturated every three or four months with similar stories of guns getting into the hands of some psychologically disturbed individual who should have never had a gun in the first place.  We go back and forth on the issue of gun control and what it means exactly.  Some argue that their Second Amendment rights are being trampled.  Others argue that without more stringent legislation, that our society is doomed to recycle tragedy.  I believe I sit on the right side of history in saying that we need tighter gun control laws and better quality control. 

In reading a New Yorker article, “A Few Simple Ideas About Gun Control” by Adam Gopnik, it is clear that America has not done enough in preventing firearm shootout tragedies.   The truth lies in the fact that setting out sandbags and closing bridges will be inefficient for preventing the catastrophe of a tsunami.  According to Gopnik, effective gun regulation is determined by what has worked in Canada and Australia.  These are places with effective, stringent gun laws, where people also do not feel as touchy about their personal rights despite the strict regulation. 

Gopnik also sites the book, Reducing Gun Violence in America by Daniel W. Webster, in his ideas for stricter gun regulation.  The suggestions are simple and straightforward.  First, allow the FBI to have ten days, instead of the mere three, in order to conduct background checks.  Can efficient quality control, in keeping psychotics and criminals from having firearms, get accomplished in half the time it should take?  I think not.  Another suggestion is in passing legislation more quickly in order to keep guns away from people who are violent and mentally unstable.  Or how about we keep detailed records of people with restraining and protective orders and place them in a ‘high risk’ category?  Violent, abusive, and psychologically unstable individuals should not have guns.  Period.

Other ideas according to Webster and Gopnik include having better funded research into what actually puts an end to gun violence.  Also, there should be more investigation into delayed triggers and having active bans on assault weapons.  Nobody should have military grade weapons in their home.  Nobody.  It’s too bad, however, that the NRA and gun enthusiasts pooh-pooh such ideas as childish nonsense.  Is preventing senseless and preventable death and carnage a childish idea?  What’s more important, supposed ‘inalienable rights’ or a human being’s life?  If gun enthusiasts cannot practice restraint, then it should be given to them.  I think ‘smart gun’ technology makes sense.  Maybe then, gun owners would fire their gun in the true case of an emergency.  If pro-gun supporters do not support proper storage, then we need some way of preventing the senseless death and carnage that come as a result of guns.  And this tragedy and death just keeps repeating itself. [i] 

What propels my thought is twenty years ago, we did not hear about such incidents.  The Columbine shooting in 1999 appears to be the kettle starter in a slue of incidents involving gun violence and safety.  The severity and frequency have gotten worse within the last fifteen years.  There was the Sandy Hook shooting last December.  Before that the list of headline news gun violence incidents include the Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, CT.) shooting in December 2012; Sikh Temple shooting (Oak Creek,WI.) in August 2012; the Aurora (CO.) movie theater shooting in July 2012; the shooting in Tucson which nearly killed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (Tucson, AZ.); the Fort Hood army base (TX.) shooting in November 2009; the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007.  These are merely the major tragedies that I mention.  There are many more.  And what started it all was the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.[ii] The fact is that the madness has to stop.  Without taking dramatic action quickly, we will just keep saturating our headlines in the blood of its victims. This is especially true when it comes to children and the accidental deaths that are the result of children having access to firearms.

According to the New York Time’s article, “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll” by Michael Luo and Mike McIntire, accidental gun deaths get spotty reporting.  One reason for this is that in many states, death statistics are not accessible by the public.  Another reason is due to the fact that some states report accidental gun fatalities as ‘homicides’.  Then, in turn, the national statistics are lower than they should be.  The NRA cites this as reason for not having stricter storage laws.  They report that children are able to die more easily in a car accident or by ingesting poison.  The reality is, however, that accidental death firearm data is skewed.  The idea behind reporting child gun death as ‘homicide’ is that often it involves an adult’s negligence at leaving a gun or their child(ren) unattended.  That notion is also refuted in the fact that most accidental gun deaths involving children are directly at the hands of another child. 

According to statistics, that look at 259 gun deaths of children under 15 by states that have public death data, the third most common age for a child shooter is three years old.  This should be shocking enough to fuel the argument toward stringent gun storage regulation and law.  However, gun enthusiasts and the NRA take the inaccurate data of accidental gun incidents involving children to argue that gun storage is a mute point.  Though they advocate safe storage, the issue of self-defense trumps the safety of our nation’s children.  Instead of infringing on the right to bear arms, gun lobbyists advocate education to children about gun safety.  Pro-gun advocates cite a lowered accidental gun fatality rate, within the last thirty years, as proof that gun education alone is the key. 

However, to refute this point is a study in Atlanta by a Dr. Arthur Kellermen.  In this study, children, all boys, were put in a room with a .38-caliber handgun hiding in a drawer.  Three quarters of the children found the gun and two-thirds of the children actually touched the gun.  Only one child left the gun alone and told an adult; that child was then ridiculed by his peers.  In this case, over 90 percent of the boys had received gun education.  In addition to this study, the lowered accidental firearm fatality is a direct result of the vast improvement of emergency care along with the fact that less adults keep guns in their homes. This combined with the fact of having flawed and inconsistent data on accidental child gun deaths is reason enough to invalidate conclusions made by pro-gun enthusiasts.

Do you have children?  I would venture on a limb to say that no parent would want their child to share the fates of Noah McGuire (14), Matthew Dwyer (5), Tristan Underhill (2), or Alex Whitfield (11) who all died in accidental gun incidents.  All of these deaths were preventable.[iii]  It is clear and simple.  Parents should store their guns out of sight and reach from their children.  Our nation is not in the midst of a violent civil war or genocide.  So what, I ask, is the reason for leaving a firearm out in the open?  Is a person’s inherent perception of safety and well-being more important than the life of a child?  I think not. 

In summary, I truly believe that rapid gun enthusiasts need to look into the face of their children, grandchildren, or any child for that matter. Look deep into the child’s eyes and ask yourself if that life is less important than your arguments against stricter gun regulation.  I dare you.  I find it ironic that individuals who purport to being pro-life are usually also pro-death penalty, pro-war, and pro-gun.  Isn’t that ironic; dont'cha think?  Well I know one thing.  I am pro-human.  And I think the human population of the United States of America deserves better when it comes to gun safety and regulation. 

[iii] Luo, Michael and McIntire, Mike.  “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll”. New York Times.  29 September 2013. late ed.:  1, 24-25.  Print.

Humanistically yours,


Addendum: Literally, as I wrote this today, a woman from Stamford, CT. drove to Washington DC with a baby in the backseat.  She tried to ram barricades outside the White House, causing a shootout and standoff on Capitol Hill which resulted in her death.   Luckily, the streets were less crowded with traffic and people, as we are in the midst of a government shutdown (it's the third day already) because immature, selfish people don't want the US to have public health insurance.  Tom Clancy (RIP) would not have been able to write a better story!  Sometimes, reality is much stranger than fiction! 

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