Monday, August 19, 2019

Dare I Say It....Gun Control?

Well, it has happened again. This time in El Paso, Texas and, just a few hours later, in Dayton, Ohio.  Mass shootings, over thirty people killed and dozens wounded.  One suspect in custody and one shot and killed within thirty seconds of opening fire.  Thirty short seconds that took the lives of nine people. These are senseless, horrific acts of violence and the whole nation mourns the loss of these innocent people, like the hundreds of others who have been murdered in the past few years at the hands of armed individuals.

Then, two days ago, police were serving a drug arrest warrant upon a known drug dealer in a row house in a predominantly poor neighborhood of Philadelphia when the suspect opened fire with an AR-15 and shot and wounded six officers.  The man then executed an eight-hour long standoff with police who responded to the “officer down” call, exchanging gunfire until he finally surrendered, was apprehended and taken into custody.  The suspect, Maurice Hill, 36, had been arrested at least a dozen times since he turned 18 — and convicted six times on charges including illegal gun possession, drug dealing and aggravated assault, according to records obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported by the Washington Post.

It is unclear how any of these three assailants obtained the weapons and ammunition they used for their alleged crimes.  Some may have been legally obtained, others may have been stolen or they were acquired “on the street”. Some attempt to label these people as sociopaths – twisted individuals who lost control and went on murderous rampages.  Some label them as psychopaths – cunning and devious individuals who carefully planned and executed their crimes against humanity.  Some blame the lack of gun control and call for government to change the law and legislate guns out of existence. Some blame our justice system for allowing a career criminal like Hill back on the street. Some blame the healthcare system for not identifying these sick people in advance.  Some blame our educators. Some blame the rampant violence depicted in the movies and television programs that continue to stream constantly from our sources of “entertainment”. Some blame the deterioration of the family unit, indicting parents who are not paying close enough attention to their children.  Most likely all contribute to the problem, but that is too much to address here. For some issues I will attempt to do so later in this post.

First, a few things you should know about me. Many years ago, I used to be a Golden Eagle member of the National Rifle Association.  Their stand then and it remains their stand today, was that any regulation that attempts to modify or control our 2nd Amendment, our constitutional right to legally own a firearm of any type will eventually lead to loss of that guaranteed right.  I used to buy that.  I no longer do and dropped my membership several years ago.

However, I am still a gun owner. I own two 12-gauge shotguns, one an “over and under”, perfect for bird hunting and target shooting like trap and skeet.  The other shotgun is called “The Defender” and it is a short barreled, pump action gun which makes it perfect for self-defense.  I own a Ruger .270 caliber hunting rifle.  It is a single-shot, bolt action model with an effective range of nearly 1000 yards. I own three pistols.  My favorite is a long-barrel Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, six-shot revolver.  The other two are 9mm Ruger semi-automatic pistols with 15 round clips. All are legally in my possession.  

With this as additional background, let me put forth the following argument which you have no doubt heard before.

People kill people.  Some who commit homicide use guns, some knives, some use rat poison, some use crowbars, some use baseball bats, some use rocks.  Some use their bare hands. According to, a non-profit, non-partisan research group, if you take out vehicular homicide, statistics show in 2018 that of the number of unintentional deaths, there were 33,636 people in America who were killed by intentional gunshot.  That is 12 deaths per 100,000 population.  Of those, 60% of those deaths were caused by suicide.  13,286 deaths (36 %) were the result of homicide. Gun homicides ranked # 15 on the list of causes of unintentional deaths.  So 14 other methods were employed more frequently than guns.

Again, according to, there were 35,900 deaths from automobile accidents, or 13 per 100,000 people.  Of those nearly 36,000 deaths, roughly 50 % involved alcohol on the part of the person causing the accident.  The death rate from automobile accidents has come down slowly as cars have been made safer and laws passed and enforced to help protect drivers and punish those who drive under the influence; however, the death rate has virtually plateaued for several years.  So nearly three times the number of deaths from cars versus from guns.

There are over 255 million privately registered vehicles in the U.S.  This means the government knows who owns them and, roughly, where they are at any given time.  On the other hand, there are estimated to be 310 million non-military firearms in the U.S.  A Gallup poll in 2007 showed that over 47 % of all Americans have at least one handgun in their home.  Over 40 % of those handguns are unregistered.  This means the government doesn't know who owns them or where they are at any given time.  Yet, you don't hear anyone clamoring for a ban on cars because of the deaths they cause.  It would be impossible.  And, people understand that cars don't kill people, people....well, you get the point.  Likewise, you don't hear anyone clamoring for a ban on alcohol, even though its inappropriate use is at the heart of more deaths every year than handguns and that is just when alcohol is mixed with driving.  

In my opinion, attempting to ban handguns specifically would be a wasteful and hugely expensive exercise in futility, much like Prohibition, and to even attempt it would mean overthrowing the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution not to mention getting over 165 million Americans to voluntarily give up their guns. Some people believe that no one is advocating for a ban on all guns, and, to their defense, no person running for public office has dared to suggest it in their platforms.  Instead, most of the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls are advocating that all guns should be “registered”. I believe that will be as unsuccessful as trying to ban all guns. However, according to a recent Washington Examiner poll of registered voters, 41 % of Democrats said they favored exactly such a total ban on guns in the U.S. I have not fired any of my guns in over six years but I am not inclined to give them up and my bet is neither would my fellow gun owners, regardless of what certain media outlets tell you.

So, you may wonder why am I no longer a card carrying member of the NRA?  Because I do not believe that a ban or certain controls on handguns and automatic weapons (and workarounds like bump stocks) is a violation of my 2nd Amendment rights.  I don't believe, as they do, that any restriction on gun acquisition and ownership is bad.  I believe that the sale and ownership of automatic weapons has been and should again be illegal, without option for repeal, with stiff penalties for violators.  There should be a mandatory five-day waiting period for all handgun sales coupled with background checks and there should be a mandatory 25-year sentence (life for second offenders) for anyone using a gun in the commission of a felony. Had these safeguards been in place, perhaps there would not have been six wounded officers in Philadelphia last Wednesday.

I also believe we should enforce the laws already on the books as it relates to gun management.  However, focusing on eliminating guns from existence in the U.S. via “buy back” programs and other unsuccessful attempts at gun control, is focusing on the wrong issue. In the aftermath of each new tragedy involving mass murders like the ones in El Paso, Dayton, Las Vegas, Columbine, Newtown, Blacksburg, Gilroy and many other cities and towns across our nation, especially the ones involving the senseless deaths of innocent children and racially motivated acts, justifies calls for action. However, our focus needs to be in the home, in the neighborhood, in the schools and with an eye for individuals who might need help before it is too late.  No person who is currently getting treatment for a mental illness should be allowed to purchase a gun. I understand it becomes problematic when you start trying to link medical records with gun purchases because of HIPAA laws and legal privacy issues, but perhaps we should investigate some common sense approaches here.  Health providers should not be restricted from identifying patients to the proper authorities who demonstrate characteristics which could escalate to anything from suicide to mass murder. Teachers, with proper training, should not be prevented from identifying troubled youth to a responsible authority if they sense an imbalance that could escalate. A few states have “mandatory reporting” laws, but most don’t.  Parents, in particular, need to be more aware of their children's behavior, especially those activities which foreshadow or result in antisocial or violent acts

In Philadelphia, the judicial system returned an individual, who had committed and been convicted of multiple felonies, back on the street. If we were as worried as much about this as we are about offending someone through another person’s rhetoric, we could do something to create a safer environment than any effort at eliminating guns from our society.

I am not certain how, nor do I believe it is possible, to stem the flow of violence in our entertainment media. We see it in movies from the popular Deadpool series to the John Wick series.  From the high grossing Avengers to Wonder Woman.  We see unchecked violence in Japanese anime and in tens our thousands of video games; a $21 billion dollar domestic industry which sees 50 % of the Top 50 games exploit rampant violence.  We see organized violence in our games of sport. It seems our country, as well as others, thrive on the violence that is all around us but then recoil when tragedies like the ones these past weeks occur and wonder where we went wrong and how to solve the problem.  Some studies have shown that watching violence does not begat violent behavior.  Some studies say it does. One study, conducted by The National Center for Health Research, cites that the violence in our entertainment media, specifically video games watched by 97 % of children ages 12-17 (and competitively played online by nearly half of those) is the principal reason for the increase in bullying at schools and other antisocial behaviors. (See 1. reference below) I honestly don’t know.  I mean my father thought that rock ‘n roll was the work of the Devil and that Elvis Presley was a drug dealer. He was wrong on both counts….I think.

If you agree on what I have said here you recognize that it is virtually impossible to eliminate all guns from our society at this point.  Consequently we and our elected leaders need to focus on other methods of solving this problem.  In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those victims, survivors and families affected by violent crime and look forward with hope to a day when a viable solution can be found.

I welcome your comments.

1.       The American Psychological Association Task Force on Violent Media. (2017). The American Psychological Association Task Force Assessment of Violent Video Games: Science in the Service of Public Interest. American Psychologist. 72(2): 126-143. Retrieved from Accessed on March 9, 2018.