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October 8, 2015
Column #1,780
A Case for Gun Control
By Mike McManus

America has a blind spot on the issue of gun control. This is a nation with more than 300 million guns and annual sales of 3.5 million costing $11 billion.

The Roseburg, Oregon massacre was the 142th school shooting since the Sandy Hook slaughter and the 294th mass shooting this year.

When an assassin tried to kill President Reagan he also shot Jim Brady, his press secretary. A "Brady Campaign" was launched to require background checks of those who purchase guns to be sure they were not criminals or mentally disturbed.

A law was passed and signed by President Clinton that has forbidden sales to 2.4 million dangerous people. However, 40% of gun sales are not covered – particularly those sold in 5,400 "gun shows," which allow instant purchase of weapons.

After the massacre in Oregon that killed 9 students plus the killer, President Obama said that given the frequency of mass shootings, people had "become numb to this. And what's become routine is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation…`We need more guns,' they'll argue. Fewer gun safety laws."

He's right. After the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children and six adults, he proposed there ought to be universal background checks. Congress rejected them, which Obama called "shameful."

With each massacre since, Obama's anger grew, but this time he did not announce any new initiative, but simply noted there is a gun for "every man, woman and child in America. So how can you with a straight face make the argument that more guns will make us safer?"

He noted that after mine disasters, government insists on safer mines. "When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer...We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives."

He asked news organizations to tally the number of Americans killed by terrorist attacks over the last decade compared to the number killed by domestic gun violence. And he implicitly compared the trillions of dollars spent to prevent the relatively few terrorism deaths with the minimal effort and money spent to prevent the far greater number of gun deaths.

Since the 9/11 attack, fewer than 100 Americans have died in terrorist attacks compared to 150,000 who have been murdered in gun attacks.

A Pew Research poll reported in July that 71% of Republicans said protecting the constitutional right to bear arms was more important than gun control. Among Democrats, the numbers were exactly reversed.

"The politics has to change," Obama said in the aftermath of the Oregon shooting. "People who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side."

It is not often that I agree with President Obama, but in this case, he is right.

What I found particularly horrific in the Oregon case was that the student killer asked, "Are you a Christian? And if you are a Christian, stand up." When they did, he said, "Good. Because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second." Then he shot them in the head. Others were only wounded in an arm or a leg.

Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of such hateful evil doers and the mentally ill. His bill would financially reward states which "submit all necessary records into the background check system," and penalize those who do not.

Strengthening background checks is supported by 87% of gun owners according to a 2012 poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. That is an essential first step. Many other steps are needed:

  • Expand the types of people prohibited from buying firearms such as those with mental illness.
  • Keep a central database of gun sales and inventories to identify gun dealers, 5% of whom are gun traffickers with sales to criminals responsible for most gun deaths.
  • Ban sales of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
  • New guns should be more childproof, and parents must lock up weapons that are now insecure in 1.7 million homes.
  • A three-day waiting period for gun purchases would reduce suicides, which account for two-thirds of America's 32,000 gun deaths.
  • All threats of self-harm must be taken seriously. If a person appears suicidal, urge them to call 1-800-273-TALK, a suicide prevention line. Or you do so. Such initiatives could save 10,000 lives.

It is high time to reduce America's gun deaths.

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