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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,961
March 21, 2019
Gun Control Laws Needed
By Mike McManus

The last time Kathy Shott spoke to her son was shortly before Christmas, 2013. She recalled he was sad and going through a divorce at age 31. But he seemed to be looking to the future and thanked her for socks she had sent him.

On Christmas Day the Iraqi war veteran shot himself.

In 2017, a stunning 23,844 Americans committed suicide, mostly with guns. That's way above the 15,919 who were murdered.

Both numbers are far worse than any other country. In Japan only 7 people were murdered with a firearm and only 63 in the United Kingdom.

What can be done to reduce gun deaths in America?

This month the House passed two gun control bills that will help if passed by the Senate.

By a vote of 240-190 one bill would require universal background checks for any purchases of weapons. And by 228-198 the House voted to extend the time for a background check from three days to 10 days.

The odds of passage by the Republican-controlled Senate are less likely than in the Democratically-controlled House.

Even after the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama was unable to get either Republican-controlled chamber to vote for any gun control, which he called "shameful." Nor did it happen last year when 11 Jews were murdered in a synagogue - though it was the largest massacre of Jews in American history.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children and six adults in 2015, there have been
142 more school shootings and an additional 150 mass killings elsewhere, such as 49 killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando and 58 slaughtered in Las Vegas.

What can be done to reduce this carnage?

First, the Senate should pass universal background checks. About 40% of guns sold in America are not sold by licensed dealers, who must conduct a background check to be sure they aren't selling to criminals or the mentally ill.

Millions of guns are sold in 3,500 "gun shows" where no background checks are required. Universal background checks would close that loophole. This proposal is not controversial. Three-quarters of gun owners and 97% of American support universal background checks.

It should be noted that the background checks by licensed gun dealers did prevent the sale of weapons to 2.4 million dangerous people. Universal background checks could almost double that number.

Second, assault weapons like the AR-15 which transform rifles into machine guns - should be banned from sale. Guns with high capacity magazines should also be prohibited. Such a law is likely in New Zealand where such weapons killed 50 Muslims in two mosques. Eight of 10 American support banning assault weapons, which were used in Sandy Hook and Las Vegas.

States with the toughest gun laws on gun purchases have a death rate one-third lower than states which close their eyes.

Third, a three-day waiting period for gun purchases would reduce suicides. It is shocking that two-thirds of gun deaths in America are suicides.

What else can be done to reduce suicides in America? First, guns at home should be locked up, so that a depressed teenager or spouse cannot get them. Even better, why not get rid of any gun in your house?

There are more than 300 million guns in American homes and sales of 3.5 million per year. Why? For hunting? Only 6% of Americans are hunters.

In Camden, N.J. the Antioch Baptist Church and the Higher Ground Church of God in Christ proposed to reduce gun deaths by having the government offer to "buy back" guns using money forfeited by convicted felons. The state's Attorney General agreed to pay $250 per gun turned in. Result: 1,100 guns were given to the government and will be melted down for sign posts!

A similar buy-back in Oakland and San Francisco yielded 700 weapons turned in for $200 each! A Los Angeles "buy back" sparked a return of 1,659 guns.

However, the best such program was in Australia. After a horrific mass killing of 35 people in 1996, Australia passed a National Firearms Agreement which banned semi-automatic and automatic rifles and created a compulsory buy-back program for those weapons.

The stunning results: 700,000 weapons were turned in and destroyed, about one-fifth of the country's stock of firearms!

More important, the number of homicides involving firearms fell by 59%, And gun suicides plunged a stunning 74%.

If America launched a similar program, there would be 27,000 fewer deaths per year!

Let's follow Australia's example!

__________________________

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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