Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 22, 2013

Congress must deal with the issue of gun deaths

It may have taken the deaths of 27 people in Connecticut, but President Obama has finally stepped up with a plan for mitigating gun violence in this country. Not for ending it.

There is no sure solution to the horrendous number of gun deaths which take place annually in America.

There are gun control issues; mental health issues; the issue of the culture of violence which surrounds us in movies, TV, video games and music; a media culture which feeds the apparent American obsession with violence and glorification of the “shoot first, ask questions later” school of bravado.

There are no quick fixes and no sure answers to all these challenges. But every idea which might possibly go some way toward remedying gun deaths in this country, even in part, should be on the table.

And that is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should bring the President’s plan to the Senate floor for debate and a vote as quickly as possible.

Yes, it should be followed up by a plan to correct our broken mental health system (which will require meticulous study and creativity) and some way of protecting our young people from exposure to too much “entertainment” violence without radically crushing the First Amendment.

But as a first step, the President is urging the Congress to take common sense measures to deal with the massive number of guns (300 million) in this country, and Congress, regardless of the outcry from gun lobbies, needs to give these measures a hearing and a chance.

The fact that we’ve been barred by gun lobbies from even discussing this issue in Congress is ludicrous.

Annually in America there are 30,000 gun homicides, suicides or accidents. At that rate, in the month since the Newtown shooting, an estimated 2,500 people have been killed by guns. No other industrialized nation even approaches America’s rate.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “European nations — even former eastern bloc countries — typically have rates well below 1 per 100,000, or far less than one-third the frequency seen in the U.S.

The pattern is similar in other advanced industrialized nations, such as Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and New Zealand” — meaning we are beaten out only by such nations as Colombia, South Africa, Thailand and Nicaragua.

In Japan in 2006, only TWO people were killed with guns. The U.S. is responsible for over 80 percent of the gun deaths in the 23 richest nations combined.

The argument that guns (especially assault weapons?) are necessary for personal protection is also discredited by statistics.

A study published in the Southern Medical Journal in 2010 found that “a gun is 12 times more likely to result in the death of a household member or guest than in the death of an intruder.”

The New England Journal of Medicine stated in 1993 that “gun ownership creates nearly a threefold risk of a homicide in the owner’s household.”

Nancy Lanza thought she was protecting herself with guns, which were instead turned against her — an irony which should not be lost on us.

Are there other causes? Certainly. But this is one we can work on NOW. If these changes don’t help, we’ll be studying others in the meantime.

But making guns less easily available, banning high-capacity magazines and getting rid of assault weapons — which have no purpose but mass killing anyway — enforcing background checks on ALL gun sales, these are a first step.

Those of us who believe in tighter gun control deserve to be allowed to at least have the discussion — especially in Congress.

Ellen McDaniel-Weissler

LaVale

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