Thursday, January 03, 2013

Guns in America

There are an average of 11 gun deaths per day in the United States.  At least 6 mass shootings occurred in the United States in 2012.  Would anyone care to guess how many there will be in 2013?

In 2002, there were over 9,000 gun-involved homicides in the United States.  Compare that with the numbers of such homicides in Japan (47), Canada (144), or the United Kingdom (14) which all impose restrictions on gun ownership.

These numbers offer stark evidence of the need to address gun violence in the United States.  Listed are what I believe to be good common sense measures.  Some of these measures have already been taken.  In those cases, we need to do more to enforce them:
  • Register all gun sales
  • Prevent convicted felons from obtaining guns  
  • Ban the sale of extended ammo clips, armor-penetrating bullets, and semi-automatic assault rifles
  • Require that gun-owners obtain a firearms safety license (just as we require folks to pass a safety test to obtain a drivers license). 
I've been around guns much of my life.  At my dad's house on Klamath Lake, in Southern Oregon, we had a gun cabinet, right next to the refrigerator.  It was never locked; the cabinet didn't even have a lock.

Within were several shotguns (two 12-gauge and a 20-gauge), a couple .22 rifles, two 30.06 hunting rifles, a vintage .303 British rifle from World War II, and several small-caliber pistols, as well as pellet guns and bee-bee guns.  The closet also contained ammunition.

The Cariaga household was always full of kids.  The kids had access to the guns.  We used them to hunt geese and deer.  Sometimes we'd shoot them for fun, practicing our marksmanship on varmints or beer bottles.  We shot them from the deck just off the living room that overlooked Klamath Lake.  

I say all this to establish that I'm not afraid of guns.  I don't "blame" guns for the four mass shootings that have occurred in the United States in the last month.  I blame people.

So-called "Second Amendment proponents" claim that having guns in a household serves to protect that household from violent crime.  But, according to a study (which you can read here) by the New England Journal of Medicine, the opposite is true.  That study found that "keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide... Virtually all of this risk involved homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance."

Anecdotal evidence reinforces this finding.  The first victim of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, was his mother, Nancy Lanza.  Ms. Lanza was a gun enthusiast who took her son to target practice at the shooting range.  Acquaintances said she was proud of her gun collection and would boast of it at a local watering hole.  On December 14, 2012, her son used one of those guns to kill her. He shot her twice in the head as she slept.

But I can get a touch more personal with the anecdotes, if you prefer.

More than once, growing up, I saw guns brandished in highly volatile situations.  Passions ran high in the Cariaga household.  One dreadful night a weapon was discharged inside the house.  The bullet passed through the wall of the kitchen and into the basement.

Like I said, I'm not afraid of guns.  I'm afraid of people. People can't be trusted with guns.

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