â€œâ€¦I call on President Trump and the Republican controlled House and Senate and Executive Branch to work together, get some bills passed and stop taking money from the NRA because children are dying and so is the future of America as a result.â€
David Hogg, survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month
â€œTo every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you.â€
Emma Gonzalez, another survivor, who has more Twitter followers than the NRA
I morned the 17 people who were killed in the mass school shooting in Florida. Then I realized that I have a granddaughter who is in high school, and that her life might be in danger; this made me feel afraid and angry. Why should a 14 year old have to worry about getting shot at her school?
Every year there are more than 37,000 gun deaths in the USA, including about 22,000 suicides. 2017 was the worst so far, with 15,591 homicides. Incredibly, there were 732 children and 3234 teens who were injured or killed by guns. These are data from the Gun Violence Archives. You probably know already that the USA has many times the gun violence of any other developed country.
Why? Although mental illness is blamed frequently, it should noted that 98% of people pulling the trigger are men. Women also have mental illness, but they are much less responsible for shootings. Male aggression (!) and the easy availability of guns are contributing factors to most shootings.
Unfortunately, our government has not taken responsibility for the ease with which guns can be purchased. Indeed, in 1996 an amendment to the omnibus spending bill stated: â€â€¦none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun controlâ€¦.â€ This has effectively halted research into gun deaths.
How did this happen? Certainly the deaths of thousands of Americans is a public health crisis! The National Rifle Association wields immense power in Washington; it was they that effectively put a stop to gun injury research. The NRA has bought our senators and representatives. All told, the NRA has given Colorado Senator Cory Gardner $3,879,064, according to the New York Times. Gardnerâ€™s comment after the Las Vegas shooting was: â€œMy family and I are praying for the families of those injured and killedâ€¦.â€ He has not taken any substantive action to stop the shootings. The Washington Post wrote that Representative Scott Tipton has received $19,950 from the NRA.
Shootings are a terrible way to reduce our population! In my series of bad ways to decrease human numbers, this is one of the worst, since shooting victims are often young people. What can we do to reduce the slaughter? I offer several ideas.
Do you remember Gabby Giffords, the Arizona representative who was shot in the head while campaigning? Sign her pledge at: https://action.giffords.org/page/s/gabby_giffords_pledge. It says, in part, â€œâ€¦I will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobbyâ€™s.â€
Another idea is to require gun owners to purchase insurance, just as car owners do. Then if you, or a gun you own, shoots someone, the insurance would help with bills. The effect would be strong because insurance companies would pressure gun stores to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people, and limit assault weapons.
Already PayPal, Square, Stripe and Apple Pay donâ€™t allow their services to be used for the purchase of guns. Andrew Ross Sorkin suggests that all financial institutionsâ€”including banks and credit card companiesâ€”should stop doing business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks. This would not be a cure, but it would be a step in the right direction for the sickness of shootings.
Nicholas Kristof has an excellent online essay â€œHow to Reduce Shootingsâ€. It is a clear statement of the problem, and includes 9 ways to approach a solution. One of them is to research â€œsmart gunsâ€ which require a PIN or fingerprint before they can be fired.
I am pleased that teens such as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, both quoted above, are stepping up to be gun safety activists. Please join me on March 24th at a local March for Our Lives. Starting at 1PM we will meet at the Durango High School parking lot and march to Rotary Park.
Â© Richard Grossman MD, 2018