A New Plan For Ending Gun Violence.

              Some of our friends in the surgery and public health departments of the University of Massachusetts Medical School have just published an important editorial about gun violence asking whether we can do for gun violence what has recently been done for vaping and e-cigarettes. What they basically argue is that the 4-month ban on these products enacted in Massachusetts, a move that is apparently spreading to other states, creates a template for how we should be dealing with another threat to public health, namely, the threat posed by gun violence.

              The authors of this well-reasoned piece point out that as of October 8, 2019 vaping products were responsible for the deaths of at least 26 young persons, with more than 1,200 hospitalizations as well.  On the other hand, what thy refer to as the ‘epidemic’ of gun violence claimed nearly 40,000 lives in 2017, even though we have identified the agent which causes the problem (the gun) and we have developed “proven means” to reduce this particular health threat.

              The editorial calls for a “temporary ban on the future sale of guns and assault rifles in the United States while we more systematically study gun safety,”  a rather novel idea for dealing with gun violence which copies the temporary ban on vaping products going into effect in Massachusetts and possibly other states.

              With all due respect to the co-authors of this editorial (in the interests of full disclosure, as they say, I should state that one of the authors, Dr. Michael Hirsh, co-directs with me the Wood Foundation which sponsors multi-city gun buybacks every year) I would like very much to know exactly what means have been proven to reduce gun violence, because such means certainly haven’t been put into effect.  In 1999, the national gun-violence rate was 9.89. It bounced around until 2011 and has been steadily climbing ever since. It was at 11.69 in 2017, and if the open-source reports used by the Gun Violence Archive are at all reliable, the last several years have certainly not seen any decline in gun violence rates at all.

              But the purpose of this column is not to nit-pick this word or that word with the authors of what is really a strong and commendable editorial on moving forward with some kind of serious gun-violence reduction plan. Rather, I want to address a much more fundamental issue which arises from the idea that we find ourselves in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, a perspective which is shared by virtually all the researchers and advocacy groups dealing with this problem today.

              When we use the word ‘epidemic,’ we usually refer to a medical problem which arises without warning, often for reasons that initially we do not understand, and requires a comprehensive effort to both cure the victims of the disease as well as to protect populations which have  not yet been infected by the threat. This was exactly how the public health community responded in 2014-2016 to Ebola, which ended up infecting 28,000 and killing roughly 11,000 people in West Africa but was contained almost wholly within that  geographic zone.

              The United States isn’t suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. We are suffering from a threat to health which is endemic to certain locations and certain populations within the United States. Not only does gun violence occur virtually every day in certain, clearly-identified locales involving clearly-identified populations, but this medical threat has been going on in these same locations for what is now a century or more.  All fine and well that public health has discovered the existence of this problem since Columbine and Sandy Hook. It’s hardly new news to residents of cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis and Detroit.

              Sorry Thomas Abt, you don’t end gun violence by going into the ghetto, planting trees and cutting the grass. You get rid of gun violence by getting rid of the guns that are used to commit gun violence.

              This still needs to be said?

17 thoughts on “A New Plan For Ending Gun Violence.

  1. I suppose if one suggested we go into the ghettos and dying factory towns across America and confiscate the guns (didn’t Mike Bloomberg say that?), the Left would scream bloody murder. Well, the left would scream about the ghettos, not the factory towns. Those towns are inhabited by baskets of deplorables. And as long as gun ownership is not only Constitutionally protected but a major sociologically defined right in many parts of the US (as seen in the proliferation of 2A Sanctuary counties), the public will not be turning them in. I think the good authors will have to wait another generation or two for that sea change.

    But if the Docs get their wish and get a temporary moratorium on sales, I guess I know where I will be shopping this week.

    Good editorial in the Sunday Times about the collapse of the working class, leading to an actual decrease in the life expectancy of Americans due to alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, the disintegration of family structure, and other issues. That’s the real endemic problem. Guns and opiods are the symptoms. As the authors of that piece said, when you can predict a child’s future based on their zip code rather than their capabilities, we have a problem. You can undoubtedly predict their probability of suffering a gunshot wound with zip codes as well.

    As I said before here, one only has to subscribe to the Albuquerque Journal to read about shootings in today’s paper. In Los Alamos, you need to visit the Historical Society Building, even though we have over 1,000 dues paying gun club members in a town of 12,000. Its about one’s life, not one’s guns. Sure, we can reduce shootings by eliminating guns (a bit of a tautology) although good luck with that. You will not make this a better nation if that’s all you do and these docs know it.

    • Wow. I got mine just to do due diligence. We had a teen in Los Alamos wandering around and breaking into houses. He collected quite an arsenal of what people left laying around their homes. It was easy pickings. The message was obvious: if you want to steal guns, our community was easy pickings.

      The judge twice let him off without jail time, so the message was the justice system was lenient. I put in a safe and gave my locking steel cabinet to a friend who didn’t have either.

  2. Here’s the problem with a gun safe. Guess what happens the minute you put a safe in your house? It gets filled with all kinds of other ‘valuable’ stuff; personal papers, jewelry, even expensive clothing. Which means that people other than the gun owner need access to the safe. And guess what then happens? They leave it open because just as they were about to close the door the phone rings, the UPS guy comes to the door. This happens all the time.

    • I agree with you Mike. That is the reason I will never purchase a “gun safe.” I know everyone will use it for other than it’s intended use. I don’t know why so many push for people to purchase these “gun safes.” Other than they are making money.

    • That’s true enough. A gun safe is a sort of an “engineered control” as we like to say in my line of work. If used properly, it works by itself to provide a level of safety. Checking for an empty chamber is an administrative control. You put the guns in the safe and lock the safe and bolt the safe to the floor. But closing the safe is an administrative control. if you leave the safe open, give everyone the combination, or write the combination down and put it under the safe, it defeats the purpose. The safe may be an engineered control, but its also a dumb control. If the human element is failing, so does the control.

      And as Mike suggests, there are plenty of ways of making this particular engineered control useless. A pen pal of mine once said that if you don’t bolt the safe down (assuming it is a smaller one) you just provided the thieves a convenient box to cart off all your guns at once.

  3. FBI data on violent crime says that it is largely trending downward nationally and has been year over year since the late 1990’s. The numbers on rates of “gun violence” skew dramatically to urban and metropolitan areas where, coincidentally, the strictest gun control laws exist and the bar to lawful private ownership of firearms is highest.

    Imposing additional restrictions on law abiding people serves no purpose other than perhaps criminalizing technical or unknowing violations by said same law abiding people. Look to communities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where “criminal justice reform” is being advanced. Property crimes have been reduced in severity to the point that cops won’t arrest and DA’s won’t prosecute and guess what……. property crime is at all time highs and leads the nation in that category. If you make it less troublesome to steal, those who steal for a living are going to steal more.

  4. Pingback: A New Plan For Ending Gun Violence. — Mike The Gun Guy™ | The View From Out West

    • Mike I agree with you. I tell my friends this and they don’t believe me. Could you give me some references so I can show them to my friends. It would be great to show them that they are wrong. They keep showing me FBI, CDC, and other data that they say the opposite. I find it hard to argue with them when they show me this.

  5. For some reason when I look at Facebook to learn what my relatives are up to I am finding videos about Clint Eastwood making his day. Makes me think the comment about it being the guns stupid should be saying “it’s the media stupid” but that is not quite accurate. It is the process of the media teaching people how to behave just like in the past it was done by institutions like religion, schools or family. But the media like guns are not the entire cause.

    • Exactly why it’s a really stupid thing to say. Also when you have states like Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, the Dakotas etc. where guns are as close to ubiquitous as they can get, yet violence is quite low.

      Clearly the difference is not the guns, and focusing on guns exclusively as Jim and the other anti-gun activists do sets you up for failure on innumerable levels.

      • If it were just the guns, I would think Los Alamos would be one of the most violent places in NM since almost one in ten residents belongs to the gun club. But as I’ve said before, you have to be a historian to track down the last murder.

        When life and sociology are going wrong and there are guns around, we have a problem. For example, parts of Chicago or Albuquerque. In many parts of the U.S. where jobs have vanished along with hope, suicides (and a gun is a foolproof way to turn out the lights) and drug epidemics are telling us that our social structures have failed. Good article in the Sunday NY Times worth reading on this topic. “Who killed the Knapp Family” by By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

        When educational levels, jobs,family structure, and quality of life are all good, guns generally just sit in a gun case unless someone is out sport shooting. Bad Karma and 9mm hole punch machines both prevalent? You have a problem. A lot of us are not being challenged to help solve the bigger problems. Instead, we are being told we should be on a guilt trip. Conservatives rally behind a macho man (Trump) who ridicules his opponents and Progressives behind folks who are light years to the left of many gun owners and refer to us as being in that basket of deplorables. Why is anyone surprised no one is interested in reaching across the aisle?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.