A Memorial To Gun Victims?

A new study by Dr. John Leventhal, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, found that firearms kill more than 3,000 children each year in the US.  Another 7,000 are wounded badly enough to be hospitalized, most from assaults. And those are just the statistics for children! Overall, there are more than 11,000 homicides per year in the US involving a firearm and more than 19,000 suicides involving a gun according to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

No other advanced nation comes close.

To put these statistics into perspective, the number of children killed by guns in the US in a single year exceeds the 2,977 people who died in the attacks on 9/11. The 4,486 US soldiers killed during the 6 years of the Iraq War is less than half the number of gun homicides that occur in the US in a single year. And the 2,287 US soldiers who have been killed during the 10 years we have been engaged in the Afghan War is roughly equivalent to two and a half months of gun homicides in the US!

Put another way, as of May 2011, there were 58,272 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, representing the number of US soldiers killed during our 14 years of military involvement in Vietnam. The number of gun homocides in the US would exceed that number in approximately 5 years. And, if you included gun suicides, the number would be exceeded in just 3 years!

Do you still think we don’t have a gun problem in this country?

Yet despite the overwhelming reality of these statistics, American politicians refuse to act. The shooting of a US Congresswoman and the mass murder in Tucson, Arizona wasn’t enough to force common sense gun control. The mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater wasn’t enough. Even the slaughter of 26 children in Newtown, Connecticut wasn’t enough to prompt Congress to act. They couldn’t even pass a measure calling for universal background checks of gun purchasers when polls showed that a vast majority of Americans supported it.

It makes one wonder what it will take to bring Americans to our senses.

I would suggest that we create a memorial to gun victims listing all of their names. Make the memorial as visible and as powerful as possible, something similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Add the names of gun victims week by week; month by month; year by year. It may take a while, but eventually most sane people will realize exactly what our lax gun laws are costing us.

At least I would certainly hope so.

More Guns = More Homicides.

Without the heavily-financed propaganda from the NRA, it’s doubtful that anyone would ever question the relationship. But since the gun industry has spent hundreds of millions to convince us otherwise, it has become the job of academia to bring us back to reality.  That’s just what Professor Michael Siegel from Boston University and his two coauthors have done in an exhaustive study to be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study looked at other academic literature which had concluded that where there are more guns there is more homicide. It compared gun availability and homicides using data from 26 developed nations. It analyzed the relationship between gun ownership and homicides using data from 50 states over a 10-year period.  The study even took into account many other factors including race, poverty and overall levels of violence.

The study’s inescapable conclusion is that more guns equal more homicides.

The plain fact is that guns make it easier to kill others and yourself. When someone snaps, guns become the weapon of choice. And thanks to the NRA, guns are readily available in every US city and every state.

Further, the act of concealing and carrying a gun doesn’t make us safer. It endangers us. That should be clear to everyone following the mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. The shooter, who had a history of gun violence and mental illness, was able to easily purchase a shotgun because all charges had been dropped and thus were not in the national database.

Although he entered the Navy Yard armed with only a double-barreled shotgun, he was able to acquire a semi-automatic pistol and an AR-15 assault weapon. How? The bad guy with a gun shot the good guys with guns and took their weapons.

So much for Wayne LaPierre’s post-Newtown argument.

And, in that regard, the Navy Yard shooting was not unusual. Data shows that most people who carry guns are more likely to be shot with their own guns than to use their guns to shoot an attacker. This is simply common sense. A gun is not a defensive weapon. It’s an offensive weapon. It cannot stop bullets. It can only stop another shooter if you see the shooter first, recognize the threat first and shoot first.

If we are to ever stop mass shootings and reduce gun homicides, we must reduce the number and lethality of guns. There is no justifiable reason why a private citizen should have more firepower and higher capacity magazines than law enforcement.  And there is no reason why we can’t have universal background checks for all gun purchases. Neither of these actions are a breach of the Second Amendment.

At the same time we have to look in the mirror and change our culture. Perhaps our movies and video games would not be so violent if we weren’t at war all the time. Maybe we would have less mental illness if we weren’t sending our citizens off to war zones, traumatizing them and returning them to our streets without careful examination. And maybe we’d have fewer of the criminally ill if we treated mental illness for what it really is…illness. There should be no shame or repercussions for a troubled individual seeking therapy anymore than there is for someone seeking treatment for cancer.

We shouldn’t stigmatize them. But we shouldn’t make it easy for them to purchase guns, either.