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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,941
Nov. 1, 2018
The Need for Gun Control
By Mike McManus

The killing of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday is not an unusual event - though it was the greatest massacre of Jews in American history. In 2016, America's deadliest shooting ever was in a gay nightclub where 49 were killed in Orlando. That record stood for only a year until 58 people were slaughtered in Las Vegas last October.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children plus adults in 2015, there were 142 more school shootings that year and an additional 150 mass shootings elsewhere.

There were 235,700 violent crime incidents from 2007 to 2011 in which victims used a firearm to threaten or attack the offender. In 32% of those cases, the offender was also armed.

However, the firearm homicide rate is far higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries. For every single gun homicide in Germany, for example, there were 40 in America!

Interestingly, gun homicides have fallen in the U.S. from 65 per million people in 1990 to only 40 in 2015. Violent crime has fallen in half from 732 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 383 in 2017.Only 30% of Americans own guns and only 4.4% are actually hunters.

Yet shootings are common across the country. On an average day, six children are injured or killed in an unintentional shooting according to the Centers for Disease Control. From 2012 to 2016, an average of 35,000 Americans died from gun violence annually. However, nearly two-thirds are suicides!

What can be done to reverse these trends? Here are seven suggestions:

  • TIME magazine reports that 89% of gun owners and 89% of Americans support preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns.
  • And 82% of gun owners want to block purchases by people on no-fly or watch lists or with criminal records.
  • Even three-quarters of gun owners and 97% of Americans want to require universal background checks for gun sales. Sadly, there are no background checks at gun shows, where about 40% of guns, tens of thousands, are sold annually.
  • Bump stocks, that turn a rifle into a machine gun, which was used in Las Vegas, should be banned.
  • Eight of 10 Americans want to create a federal database to track all gun sales.
  • Three-fourths of Americans (77%) want to bar the sale of assault-style weapons like the AR-15 (but only 48% of gun owners agree).
  • A three-day waiting period for gun purchases would reduce suicides, which account for two-thirds of America's 32,000 gun deaths. (If a person appears suicidal, urge them to call 1-800-273-TALK to speak to a suicide prevention expert.)

Yet Congress has not passed the Manchin-Toomey measure to expand background checks to prevent people with mental illness, or those on no-fly or watch lists from being able to buy weapons. The Manchin-Toomey bill was first introduced after 20 first-graders were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

In a few days, American will have an important election, in which all 435 House seats are up for vote, plus many in the U.S. Senate.

I urge readers to call or write their Member of Congress and their newspaper to demand a vote on universal background checks and to bar the sale of AR-15 type weapons that should only be use by soldiers fighting wars.

Remember that the National Rifle Association contributed $30 million just to elect President Trump, and firearms sales topped $17 billion last year.

The gun debate seems frozen due to the power of the NRA. However, the election gives millions of Americans a way to fight back. We can demand universal background checks to prevent those with mental health problems, criminal records or who are on watch lists - from purchasing weapons to kill themselves or others. We can bar the sales of AR-15 weapons and those with large magazines. In addition there should be a three-day waiting period to buy any weapon.

Hopelessly idealistic? States with the toughest laws on gun purchases have one-third the gun deaths of states which close their eyes. That should inspire us.

Let's reduce the number of Americans killed by guns every 15 minutes.

You can be the life-saver of someone!

___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

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