And The Killings Continue

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Boyce JPEGAccording to the Los Angeles Times, there have been 142 shootings in schools in the U.S. since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012.

Guns killed 32,251 people in the United States in 2011, the most recent year for which the US Centers for Disease Control has data. By some estimates, more than 30 people are shot and killed each day.

The opponents of gun control frequently say, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. Strictly speaking, that is, of course, true. A gun lying on a table won’t kill anyone unless someone picks it up and shoots another person with it. But as the statistics above demonstrate people have been picking it up at an alarming pace.

It might be constructive to compare gun deaths to automobile deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

So the death rates from guns and cars are about the same. But the use of cars is much more regulated than the use of guns. I bet, if the use of guns was as heavily regulated as the use of cars is, the death rate from shootings would go way down.

For example, before getting a license to drive a car, people must pass a written test to assure they know the rules that are designed to protect accidents. Couldn’t we require people to pass a written test demonstrating that they know how to safely use and store guns.

People must also take a road test to demonstrate that they can drive a car safely. Couldn’t we require a similar “driving test” in the use of guns.

It might be helpful to require that prospective gun owners take and pass courses in the safe use of fire arms. Even the National Rifle Association (NRA) recognizes the value of such training. If you visit their web site at you will find they offer almost 40 such classes.

In California, doctors are required by the Department of Motor Vehicles to report patients who have lapses of consciousness, Alzheimer’s Disease or related disorders. They must also report any other medical condition that they believe may affect a driver’s ability to drive safely. Couldn’t they be required to submit the same information to California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) The DOJ already must give permission before a gun dealer can sell a gun to a customer.

Most of the youth, and many of the adults, involved in mass shootings probably suffer from psychiatric disorders that make it unsafe for them to have access to guns. In California, all licensed California gun dealers must submit, to the (DOJ), a document detailing information about the person seeking to buy a gun. There is a mandatory 10-day waiting period before the firearms dealer can deliver the firearm to the purchaser. The DOJ conducts a firearms eligibility background check to ensure the purchaser is not prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms. The dealer can’t sell the gun to the purchaser without the DOJ’s approval. Having data on a gun purchaser’s mental health history could do much to keep guns away from dangerous people.

California law now requires drivers to carry liability insurance with minimum amounts of coverage which vary based on the number of people killed or injured by an unsafe driver. If we had similar requirements for gun owners, and if gun use by children had to be covered by the insurance, I bet the number of shootings would go down. And adults would be more likely to lock their guns safely away from children. Providing evidence of having insurance, that covers gun use, could be a necessary part of obtaining a gun license

California courts can already send reminders of the need for a driver to go to a court hearing when drivers are ticketed. Surely the DOJ could send notices to gun owners cancelling their gun licenses when pertinent mental health information is received by the department.

A large number of people die each year in traffic accidents. But I bet the toll would be much higher if we did not have these detailed driving regulations. I also believe we could greatly lower the death rate from shootings if we established a comparable set of regulations regarding gun ownership.

And finally, there is the issue of mental health care. Insurance for mental health problems must be made much more affordable and available. And government should mount campaigns to eradicate the stigma of having mental health problems. There should be no more stigma to being treated for mental health issues, than being treated for high blood pressure. That would encourage people to get mental health care that could reduce the risk that they might start shooting other people.

I’d love to hear your views on this subject. Do you agree or disagree with any of the things I have said? Do you have any other suggestions to reduce gun violence? If so, click on the comments button at the top of this post and type in your ideas.


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