I’m relinquishing my space today to my cousin the cardiologist. As he notes, it should be possible to legislate restrictions that will save lives without running afoul of the 2d Amendment. Unfortunately, in our current bipolar political environment, where every issue is painted in black and white –where complexity and shades of gray are “elitist notions” and the most innocuous regulations are omens of the coming apocalypse–the prospects aren’t bright.
FIREARM VIOLENCE IN THE UNITED STATES: A MEDICAL OPINION
Most people don’t realize that over 30,000 people are purposely shot to death each year in the U.S. Moreover, rates of firearm-related violent crimes continue to climb, having increased by 26% since 2008. To gain perspective on these numbers, firearm deaths have now reached a yearly rate that equals that of automobile fatalities. What we can do to stem such violence is urgent but hampered severely by the rabid supporters of the second amendment and, of course, the gun lobby. Some clarification recently has been shed on this problem by a study appearing in the prestigious medical journal, the AMA sponsored Archives of Internal Medicine. These authors explored the question whether more restrictive firearm laws in a given state are associated with fewer shooting deaths. To answer this question, using sophisticated statistical methods, they measured the association between the rate of shooting deaths in a state-by-state rating (divided into quarters) of strength of legislation designed to limit sale and use of firearms. Their results were very illuminating: Those states with the fewest firearm regulations, as exemplified by Utah and Louisiana (0-2 laws), suffered the highest rate of firearm fatalities, which included both homicides and suicides. The states with the strictest pattern of regulation, as exemplified by Hawaii and Massachusetts (9-24 laws) experienced the lowest fatality rates. Indiana fell into the second lowest category for regulation and, as expected, fell into the second highest incidence of firearm deaths.
These authors freely admitted that finding an association between two factors—gun laws and mortality—does not prove that these two are causally related. But it sure raises important thoughts about what we as a society can do about this problem. Further research is obviously needed, but it is quite likely that more restrictive gun laws can save lives.
More aggressive attempts to identify, treat and constrain the huge numbers of those who are mentally ill is an exercise doomed to failure. Widespread arming of teachers and/or police officers is equally ridiculous, especially since it would increase chances for erroneous shootings in the absence of any expected benefits.
With such limited options available, what are we left with? Although we need not scrap the second amendment, those who hold legislative power should seriously consider stronger laws restricting guns, while, at the same time, sponsoring and performing more comprehensive research on this urgent problem. If we value life, we cannot afford to wait!