Guns or Anxiety? We have chosen both.

HopeThe amount of gun violence in our country must make every one of us feel anxious and unsettled, no matter where we live, what our politics are, or our place on the socio-economic scale. If we want to promote our physical and emotional wellbeing, we will have to find a way to get rid of guns. Some say they feel safer because they can defend themselves with their guns. But data from a US mortality survey showed that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home means an increased risk of firearm homicide http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full. Another study showed “the presence of a gun increases the possibility that a normal family fight or drinking binge will become deadly” http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-kellermann.htm.The FBI says that in 2008, there were 16,272 murders in the US and firearms were the cause of 10,886 (or 67%) of them ).

Here are some recent comments on guns:

  • Joe Nocera ponders why we, as a society, “are willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun… Elliot Rodger’s individual right to bear arms trumped the public good. Seven people were shot as a result” (NY Times 5-27-14).

Nocera quotes Michael Waldman’s book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography:” “Every man used to be required to have a musket because the framers viewed a standing army as the first step to tyranny. ‘The right of the people to keep and bear Arms’ referred to military defense. In debating the Second amendment in 1789, nobody in the House referred to a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting, or any other purpose than joining the militia to protect our country.” Waldman asks, “How can we possibly prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who are likely to kill?” and answers, “The sobering fact is that there is little we can do to predict or change human behavior, particularly violence; it is a lot easier to control its expression, and to limit deadly means of self-expression. In every state, we should prevent individuals with a known history of serious psychiatric illness or substance abuse, both of which predict increased risk of violence, from owning or purchasing guns.

“But until we make changes like that, the tragedy of mass killings will remain a part of American life.”

Waldman continues: “In 1972, the Republican platform favored gun control. In 1977 the NRA set out to change the Second Amendment to mean the individual’s right to bear arms. By 1980, the Republican platform opposed gun registration. The critical modern event, however, was the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which set aside two centuries of settled law, and ruled that a gun-control law in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment… When the militias evaporated, so did the original meaning of the Second Amendment.”

  • Richard A. Friedman, a psychiatrist, writes that we can’t prevent these tragedies by improving our mental health system. “Most killings in the U.S. are by people without mental illness who use guns. At the present, we have no ability to predict who will be violent” (from an Op Ed, “Why Can’t Doctors Identify Killers?” NY Times, 5-28-14).

• “Why are we willing to accept the horror and grief as part of our way of life?” and “Where is the outrage against the NRA and the politicians without a backbone who refuse to enact basic gun control laws?” From an editorial and a reader in the SF Chronicle 5-27-14.

  • The father of Christopher Michael-Martinez, the man killed in the delicatessen in Isla Vista, said, “This death has left our family lost and broken… Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?”

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