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Ethics & Religion
Column #2101
November 24, 2021
America Needs Gun Control Laws
By Mike McManus

When I was 14, I saw my father waving a gun at my mother in an argument. The next day I went to my father's sock drawer, removed his pistol, and hid it in the rafters of our garage. Fortunately, both of my parents died natural deaths decades later.

Thousands of Americans are not so lucky.

Every day 100 Americans die from gunshots - including 64 who committed suicide and 39 who were homicide victims. Every year nearly 40,000 Americans are killed by guns, including 23,000 who committed suicide and 14,000 dying in homicides.

America's firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than other high income countries, and the gun suicide rate is 10 times higher! Three out of five gun deaths are suicides, and a third are homicides.

In addition to gun deaths, many more people are shot and survive their injuries.

Thirty percent of Americans own a gun. Two-thirds of those people own multiple guns, and half of all guns are in the hands of only 3% of the population. Gun ownership varies widely by state, ranging from 61.7% in Alaska to only 5.2% in Delaware.

More than six in 10 Americans believe a gun in their home makes it safer. However, the evidence is the exact opposite. In fact, they put individuals and their families at higher risk of injury and death.

The 67% of gun owners who cited protection as a major reason for possessing weapons is a big increase from the mid-1990's, when the majority of U.S. gun owners reported recreation as their primary reason for gun ownership. Fewer than half said their guns were for protection.

How can a family reduce the odds of suicide? Get rid of guns in the house. Access to a gun in the home increases the odds of suicide more than three-fold. If firearms are not available, the person at risk for suicide is much more likely to survive even if he or she attempts using another method.

Access to firearms also doubles the likelihood of homicide. Nearly 75% of killings are by guns. Kyle Rittenhouse would have never killed two people if he were unarmed.

In 2019 nearly 40,000 Americans were killed by gun violence, more than the number of Americans killed in car crashes! An additional 71,000 suffered non-fatal gun injuries. In 2019, firearm deaths accounted for 925,023 years of potential life lost before the age of 65 - more than diabetes, stroke, and liver diseases combined.

There are 4.5 million American women who have been threatened by a gun and nearly 1 million women who have been shot by an intimate partner. A woman is five times more likely to be murdered if her partner has a gun.

Every year, 1,000 people are shot and killed by police. There are 71,000 non-fatal gun injuries annually, costing hospitals $2.8 billion per year.

What can be done to reduce gun deaths? First, get rid of all guns in the home - as I did in my home as a teenager. Second, every state should pass laws that require a background check of any individual trying to buy a gun, which few states do today. Third, a firearm licensing system is needed to regulate and track the flow of firearms.

Universal background checks are in few states today. Research shows that when individuals are required to undergo a background check and obtain a license to purchase a firearm, far fewer guns are diverted into illegal markets.

Attention must also be focused on root causes of poor health. Racial disparities, inequality, poverty and inadequate housing and education - are all risk factors for interpersonal gun violence. Policies that address these root causes have enormous potential to reduce gun violence and improve health.

One of the greatest American public health successes is our nation's effort to make cars safer. Auto manufactures were required to install seat belts and airbags. The U.S. comprehensive approach to car safety reduced car deaths by a remarkable 80% from 1967 to 2017. This public health approach to car safety prevented more than 3.5 million deaths over 50 years.

To reduce gun violence, we should apply the same time-tested public health approach. Also, age requirements might be raised for the sale of weapons from 18 to 21. And just as drivers are expected to renew their licenses periodically, so should gun owners.

Car manufacturers are held liable if they sell a dangerous vehicle. Similarly, I believe gun manufacturers should be prohibited from selling dangerous weapons such as AR-15 rifles.

It is high time to consider a wide range of new laws to reduce gun deaths in America.


Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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