An Epidemic of Gun Violence

Last week I wrote about the 1st Amendment. This week I’m going to talk about the 2nd. There is an epidemic of gun violence. This is a serious health problem. Watching your diet, exercising, and taking pills is all for naught if a bullet kills you.

In Newtown, Connecticut, one of the worst mass shooting occurred last week when a gunman shot his mother at home, apparently with her own gun, then walked into an elementary school and shot 6 other adults and 20 children, before shooting himself. Gun rights are hotly debated and highly politicized, but gun violence is a serious health issue. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and others have been strong proponents of gun rights, and have fought hard to fight off attempts for even the slightest form of control, including restrictions on semi-automatic and assault weapons.

One of their arguments is that citizens can protect themselves with guns, and that concealed guns are a particularly effective deterrent because potential assailants won’t know who may be armed. But in 61 cased in the US in the past 30 years, maybe only one was stopped by a gun other than their own, or by the police. Even if people want guns to protect themselves, they shouldn’t need to cover the contingency of an invading army, so I see no need for high capacity bullet magazines.

Many mass shooters have mental illness and we need to do a better job providing access to mental health treatments. Some illnesses, such as schizophrenia, often don’t really manifest until people are in their teens or early 20’s, allowing them to purchase guns when their sick enough to do real damage, but not so severe that they would have more trouble planning an attack or convincing someone to sell them a gun. Even if not mentally ill, young men tend to act less rashly as they get older, and are more likely to consider the consequences of their actions. From a list of 22 of the deadliest mass shootings around the world, 65% of them were under 30. We already have a law that says that people can’t buy alcohol until they are 21-years-old, even though they can vote and serve in the military at 18-years-old. Perhaps the right to own a gun should only be allowed for those who are at least 30-years-old.

We need to close legal loopholes, such as sales between private buyers, that allow people to avoid background checks before purchasing guns. I need to fill out more paperwork to prescribe shoes for a diabetic than to buy an assault weapon. We need people to speak up and let our politicians know that gun violence caused by guns is not acceptable. We’ll never prevent all such tragedies, but we should try to minimize the possibility as best we can.

About Daniel Ginsberg, MD, FACP

I'm an internal medicine physician and have avidly applied computers to medicine since 1986, when I wrote my first medically oriented computer programs. So yes, that means I'm at least 25-years-old!
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7 Responses to An Epidemic of Gun Violence

  1. Thank you for being willing to say what you think is right. Well written.

  2. Ray Proper says:

    I do not agree with some of your “facts”. However, we do all have different life experiences. I will let that pass.

    Ben Stein’s thoughts on this massacre are spot on. He expresses himself much better than I do. I recommend his diary page that was published in The American Spectator on Dec. 17, 2012.

    http://spectator.org/archives/2012/12/17/god-help-us

    • I’m not sure what facts you find suspect. I did provide links to where I obtained some of my information. Regarding Ben Stein’s article, I don’t find it useful to just attribute actions to being evil. It implies that it’s fate and nothing can be done about it. Also he made an assumption that because the shooter was, “reserved” that it meant he played a lot of shooter video games. Even if true, I’m not aware that there is much evidence that playing such games increases the chances that someone will become a killer. They sell many millions of such games, yet the number of homicides is a small fraction.

      • Ray Proper says:

        Regarding the facts please see; http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp “Click on the footnote numbers for meticulous documentation of each fact.”

        Regarding evil I have a prescription for you. A visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. I left the museum with damp eyes and a new appreciation of what evil looks like.

        Do your children play violent viedo games?

      • I don’t have the time to read the entire article. If you want to tell me which thing in particular that I said that you think is incorrect, then I’ll look into it.

        I agree that the Holocaust was “evil” in the sense that the word is generally used, but my point was that just calling something evil implies that it’s not something that can be more deeply understood, and perhaps prevented in the future.

        My children do not play violent video games, but then again, they’re not boys.

  3. Ray Proper says:

    We will have to just agree to disagree. The data does not show any recent increase in gun crimes. Gun control laws have shown no positive effect on crime rates, not even on gun crimes. The facts do not support the premise of your article. There is no epidemic of gun crimes.

    I do not own any of the guns that were banned from 1994 thru 2004. I do not own any that are on the radar right now. I just feel that gun bans do not work. They divert our attention and resources away from societal issues and do not solve the problem. I personally believe that the mental health system is broken. That should be society’s primary focus.

    Multi-Care is a gun free campus. Does that make you feel safer? If so, how? I see it as a free fire zone just as our schools are.

    In an ideal world everyone would obey the laws. That is not the world that we live in. Bad (sometimes evil) people just do not play by the rules of society.

    Video games are just an aside to me. We have three boys. We are old enough that violent video games didn’t exist when they were growning up and none of them have taken them up in their adult lives. They may have grown up to be the same fine men that we are so proud of with violent video games in their adolescence. However, I would not have been happy taking that chance.

    • I don’t have time to get into a prolonged debate on this topic, but there has been a lot of effort by the NRA and others to even prevent the gathering of reliable data on firearm injuries. The CDC has tried to study violent crime from an epidemiological point of view, but Congress has slashed their funding for that. Also you have to be careful interpreting statistics. Deaths from firearms has gone down, but that’s because we do a better job saving lives.

      Banning weapons in the workplace does make me feel safer. It certainly won’t stop a determined killer, but it may prevent what might occur if an employee who routinely carried a gun acted out of anger before they had time to cool off if they were insulted or fired at work.

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