I have been writing about guns and gun violence since May 2012 and have published 1,700 blogs and 12 books on the subject. It occurs to me, however, that I have never discussed what I think needs to be done to eliminate gun violence which results in at least 125,000 deaths and injuries every year, a number that goes up or down a bit but has remained fairly steady over nearly the last thirty years.
Thirty years should be considered as something of a benchmark in terms of understanding the issue of gun violence is because it was back in 1992 and 1993 that two researchers, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published two articles which defined access to guns in the home as a medical threat.
How has medicine reacted to the findings by Kellerman and Rivara over the time-period since their research appeared? Unfortunately, the reaction, (this is only my opinion, take it for what it’s worth) has been to develop an argument and a treatment protocol which does not follow from what Kellerman and Rivara actually said.
What continues to emerge from both the medical and public health communities who study gun violence is the idea that we can, on the one hand, reduce gun violence while, at the same time, develop a strategy that will allow Americans to continue to own and use guns.
This strategy, which is also followed by the advocacy groups who want to reduce gun violence, is an approach which seeks to develop the idea that it’s not access to guns per se which creates gun violence, but the way in which they are used, i.e., using guns in ‘unsafe’ ways. And if we can just figure out a way to use guns safely, and make sure that everyone who has access to a gun follows safe and responsible rules, then gun violence will disappear.
What are these rules? Rule 1 - All guns should be locked up or locked away. Rule 2 - All children should have no unsupervised access to guns. Rule 3 - All adults who exhibit the slightest degree of suicidal ideation should be separated from their guns. It goes without saying, of course, that nobody whose background or personal history contains elements of violence should be allowed to buy or own guns.
What do all these strategies have in common? They focus on ways to control the behavior which results in guns being used in unsafe and dangerous ways. But that’s not what the Kellerman-Rivara research shows. Their research connected medical risk to one thing and one thing only – access to guns.
But if we follow this research to its logical end, wouldn’t the result, i.e., getting rid of guns, be a violation of the 2nd Amendment and the ‘rights’ of Americans to own guns? It surely would, which is why the medicine and public health communities advance the idea that Americans should have access to guns, as long as this access occurs in ‘safe’ and ‘responsible’ ways.
Except there’s only one little problem with this approach. And the problem is derived from the fact that there are some kinds of guns, in particular bottom-loading, semi-automatic handguns and long guns, which are designed and used only for the purpose of committing gun violence.
The definition of gun violence, by the way, doesn’t differentiate between whether a gun is used to commit a crime, such as armed robbery or assault, versus whether the gun is used for self-defense. Gun violence is what happens when someone picks up a gun, loads it with ammunition, points it at himself or someone else and pulls the trigger. That’s it.
It just so happens that of those 125,000 fatal and non-fatal injuries which occur each year because a bullet left a gun barrel and lodged in someone’s chest, head or leg, somewhere around 80 percent at least of those injuries were caused by individuals using guns that are designed solely for the purpose of killing human beings, and the only reason that most of those injuries aren’t fatal is because the guy who pointed the gun at someone else and pulled the trigger didn’t aim straight.
The United States is the only country in the entire world which says that anyone above the age of 21 who hasn’t committed a felony, or who isn’t a habitual user of alcohol or drugs, or who hasn’t been locked away in a mental-health facility can purchase, own, and use one of these guns. No other country allows its residents free access to these kinds of guns, which is why we have gun violence and other countries don’t.
And by the way, there is nothing in the law which pre-empts any governmental agency from prohibiting ownership of any product, not just guns, which is considered too dangerous and too much of a threat to community safety and human life. Don’t believe me? Just read up on a case, Friedman v. Highland Park, where the town passed a law in 2013 prohibiting any resident from owning an assault rifle, a law that was challenged but still remains on the books.
In that regard, I have started a new organization which seeks to ban the guns which cause gun violence. The organization is called Ban These Guns, and there’s even a website with a store. If you want to have an advocacy organization, you have to sell something on line.
I happen to be the only member of Ban These Guns and I don’t expect that to change. But if you want to better understand the connection between gun violence and the kinds of guns that are used to commit that violence, you might want to read through the pages on the site and then sign our petitions to get rid of those killer guns.