comments

Reader Input: Hearts and minds

-A +A

One: I'm an EM doc and have seen great sorrow and sadness from gun violence over my long career.  I've seen accidental shootings, children killed, any many senseless killings. We can do better.

We need to do better. On the one hand we have gun owner who are almost universally good people who are the ones affected by regulations. On the other we have the left which is unwilling to discuss the science as they are unwilling to "kick the hornet's nest of the NRA. Then we have the media who seems unwilling to hold both sides to a debate without lies. The answers are clear but almost no one is willing to discuss this honestly or scientifically.

The data is very straightforward. Gun related deaths are clearly proportional to the number of guns in a society in similar world countries.

In the US we have 101 guns per 100 inhabitants and 10 gun related deaths per 100.000 people. In Japan they have 0.6% as many guns and 0.6% as many gun deaths (that's 1/160 as many deaths!). In the UK they have 2.8% as many guns and 2.3% as many deaths. In Canada they have 25% as many guns and 20% as many deaths. In France they have 15% as many guns and 28% as many deaths. In the Netherlands they have 4% as many guns and 6% as many deaths. In Spain 10% as many guns and 6% as many deaths. Australia has 14% as many guns and 10% as many deaths. There are a few outliers such as Germany has 30% as many guns and only 10% as many deaths. I would argue these are unusual enough that it does not break this rule. Guns are dangerous and it is hard not to have them fall into the hands of people that are also dangerous.

And from my many years in the Emergency Room I know that there are a lot of people that are depressed, angry, drunk, high, psychotic, criminal or just sometimes show bad judgement. I would argue that people who perpetrate gun violence are not predictable. In the ED I see lots of patients who are depressed, psychotic, angry, drunk, on methamphetamines (or other drugs such as heroin), or delirious, or confused. I know how unpredictable these people are. The best experts say it is very difficult to predict how these people will react. Will these harm themselves or others ..... I would not want these people having a gun near me, my wife, or children. When we look at data about other countries rates of alcoholism, depression, psychosis, drug use, and so forth..they are very similar to ours. When we look at homicides and gun violence ours is much higher and in proportion to gun availability. One can try to keep guns out of peoples hands that have previously shown these risk factors but it will only be fair at predicting future danger. We can be much more successful if we reduce all guns!

It is clear to me that guns are dangerous but are they necessary. As I see it they have basically three uses. one is sport and play such as target practice and hunting. I believe that these are not worth nearly 100 deaths per day, 12 children a week....etc. I believe we can work out a system to allow people to hunt and play with guns. Second is the deep state paranoid stuff about the state taking over. I'm sorry but this is garbage and even though there is a dangerous and vocal minority that would disagree I hope we don't allow them to influence such an important topic.  I hope we don't think this is worth such sorrow. Third is protection. The main thing we need protection from is guns! This makes a very circular argument. If we didn't have guns we would not need guns for protection. The countries such as Japan or England that don't have gun deaths also have dramatically fewer homicides. They are safer. Studies have not shown people who own guns for protection to be safer from gun violence. If you want to be safe the data shows you need to get rid of guns! Not add more.

But we have a second amendment! We also had a constitution that was interpreted as allowing slavery and refusing woman's right to vote. I believe it is obvious we do not want slavery or to refuse women the right to vote. I also think it is obvious we want far less gun violence. The only way to achieve this is to reduce the number of guns and we need to change or reinterpret the constitution. I also think everyone should have a right to life ,liberty and the pursuit of happiness that currently is being restricted by others use of guns. Obviously this is a long term proposition but I think it is critical and moral.

We have a gun culture that is out of control. I think the answers are clear cut. I'm tired of the crazy cycle of violence. It will not be easy to make the radical changes that need to happen but it needs to happen!

I wish I had a better plan of how to get from where we are now to where we need to be but here is some starting points. First we need to change the narrative. Now we are talking about very minor irrelevant changes to gun laws that just penalize good people that own guns. We need to be talking about real and radical changes because it is clear without getting rid of guns nothing will change. Second, this will take a real change in the media.
Instead of giving equal weight to the gun nuts and crazies that talk about the solution to every problem is more guns, we need to be looking to science and experts and data. Just like in an "inconvenient truth" we can no longer listen to the science deniers that say global warming isn't real. We can no longer allow people that say crazy things  about how we need more and more guns and to say these things without ridicule. We need to continue to talk about how it's the gun manufacturers and a few radical paranoid crazies that are driving our entire country to ruin. Third, We need to change the media's glorification of guns. We need to talk to our youth about the facts and gradually change their minds. This fight will be slow and long but we need to talk real and science and morality and stop with the talk of minuscule worthless amendments that will make no difference.
This is a long term fight for hearts and minds.

John Loudermilk MD, Auburn