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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Guest Editorial: THE GUN ISSUE

Guest Editorial: THE GUN ISSUE

By: Joe Coen
Constributing Op-Ed Writer

Now that the defeated vote on gun control has gone into hibernation, but not dead yet, one wonders where we go next. Know that the NRA did not sink the vote with only 5 million members and less money than either party. Credit the loss with distrust of the White House ala Obamacare, immigration, taxes, debt, and economic non-growth. We still need a “solution” to gun violence however but our lack of success in other areas, like slowing heroin and cocaine distribution after spending $1 trillion dollars along with 45 million drug arrests since the “War on Drugs” started 40 years ago, speaks to Congressional effectiveness. For example, Obama’s proposed 2014 budget asks Congress for only 173 million to enforce gun-safety laws.  Today, drugs are more available and cheaper than ever; guns are more available, not cheaper. Politicians want your vote; they continue to pander with excuses and under-funded smoke screens.
 Complicating the issue, we are surrounded by smart people who believe dialing 911 is all the protection one needs against violence.  That was also the belief of the West Coast residents in the midst of the riots some years ago.  That would also be the “solution” if riots broke out here or anywhere if a leading figure, Dem or GOP, male or female, entertainer or politician, were killed by a nut job.  We all want to protect ourselves, families, and employees if threatened with severe bodily harm or death but suffer no illusions about how quickly police can respond to arrive in time. That’s not the fault of the police; it’s a matter of speed, traffic, timing, availability, experience, and money to hire, promote, train, and equip the police.
A USA without guns, in a free, 99% safe, democratic society, is one in which the most deranged person can do more or less anything they want with the benefit of surprise, strength, aggression, numbers and the perpetrators resolution. Yes, we should keep guns out of the hands of people who would use them irresponsibly.  The Supreme Court has ruled twice that banning firearms would be unconstitutional. Universal background checks are done now and should be done always.  So should upgraded mental health diagnosis reporting but few really trust the veracity of government to do it effectively. But, just like drugs, it’s also unreasonable to believe an evil person will ever find it hard to get a firearm.  We could make it as hard as getting a license to fly a plane but have no illusions that difficult restrictions would trump evil determination. What would work is the two “solutions” previously mentioned, more resources for childhood-to-teenage mental health, parental/teacher/friends instruction to improve observation skills and more money for police and police procedures.
In spite of all the tragic deaths from guns, bombs, airplanes, liquid and powdered chemicals, we’re still living in the safest large free country in the world.  However, our politicians jockeying for votes often want to score media points rather than really solve problems.  In 2010, 80,000 people were caught lying about criminal records when trying to buy a gun.  Only 44 of them were charged with a crime.  In the same year, 31,672 gun deaths occurred but 62% were suicides.  Seventy mass shootings happened in the US since 1982, leaving 543 dead.  In those same 31 years, 564,452 other homicides took place in the US; mass murders are about 1% of all murders; still serious but what about the other 99%?  Reducing school and movie theater mass murders can also be lessened by hiring policemen in all those locations, not teachers and not veterans. Teachers and laypersons, trained to shoot, are not as disciplined to avoid emotional distractions on the job and they more often want approval.  Police focus on the job of peace, safety, threats, and prevention before seeking enhanced relationships.
People kill, not guns. Politicians say limit the size of magazines without realizing these rectangular boxes with springs can be cut and welded together to hold more bullets. A shotgun, used at close range in a crowd, can kill or maim.  A machine shop, like private ones in Florida and elsewhere, make about 25 AR-15’s a week, selling them a year ago for less than $1,000.  They now cost up to $4,000. 
China’s gun exports are up 162% and the Russian/Pakistani 47’s are way behind demand.  Maybe the US is lucky to have 300 million people with 300 million guns.  China “only” has 1.2 million on active-duty with another 6,797,000 reserves and paramilitary in its armed forces; our civilian army is larger. 
There is no way to always prevent two dozen savages from doing horrible things in a country this free and this large.  Politician “saviors” want you to think so in order to get your vote.
Remember when little Washington, DC banned guns in 1976 when there were 188 gun-related homicides?  In 1988 there were 369, in 1993 there were 454 and in 2007 that ban was declared unconstitutional.  In 2012 there were only 88 gun-related homicides because the bad guys knew the good guys had guns.  More people die each year from auto accidents than guns. Most mass murders in the past 20 years have occurred in “gun-free zones”.  Several of the murdering young people were addicted to violent video games and movies. Many of their killings came from hydrogen peroxide, acetone, racing fuel, ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate, aluminum powder, nuts, bolts, metal balls, nails, and knives.
Are we ready to ban the previous eighteen underlined items or their substitutes in addition to guns?  Let’s ban ignorance instead.
There are those of us who use to make zip guns (out of stupidity) for (dangerous) fun in the 1950’s.  We used metal tubing, wood, nails, and glue from hardware stores.  I suspect those who’d make banned guns to do harm today would be more inclined to use Lowe’s and Home Depot supplies and make even more sophisticated weapons. Let’s reshape parenting, family values, behaviors, and education before we blame the NRA or the Second Amendment.  The most and best we can do to make us safer from both guns and terrorism have been mentioned in this article.  In one person’s humble opinion, two of those “solutions” are the most important:
Mental Health practice invokes patient privacy but federal law allows the release of information for issues of serious threats to health, safety, and public interest/benefit activities.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.7 million people in the US suffer from the most serious mental illnesses.  Of these, 77,000 are responsible for most of the problems. These 77,000 used to be in mental hospitals but 95% have been closed due to funding and political indifference. Most on-their-own patients refuse to take their medications because they don’t think they’re sick. That will continue to be a problem. 
These people are responsible for at least 10% of all homicides, 20% are in jail and 30% are on the streets, homeless. The other 40% live within your neighborhood. That is also a problem.  If the “authorities”, who need to be defined, would focus on the 80% outside of jails, we’d see fewer homicides but the “do-gooders” say that any exceptional intrusion upon them violates the civil liberties of these mentally ill persons. 
We need to open mental hospitals and enable Psychologists and Psychiatrists to freely report dangerous people without fear of legal recriminations even if they are judged alarmist.
Police Intervention in school hallways is legal in several states. It needs to spread and be funded wherever the community and police agree it’s a good idea. Kids need to appreciate discipline, respect for authority, the law, and feel protected. Parents feel free to bust the chops of teachers, administrators, and Boards of Education but won’t usually disrespect the police.  Teachers can be distracted by students who would try to take control of wherever teachers kept their guns.
Teachers also, even vets, aren’t usually continually trained and challenged. Police can win a gunfight without shooting innocent people.  It requires realistic, expensive training and a special kind of person.  The current odds of a USA student being killed in school is one in three million versus one in one million of being hit by lightening.  Neither is good but one is better and police help.
New York City’s police hit-rate on the shooting range is 78%. During a real gunfight it’s between 18 and 30%. Think how low it is with most non-police. It’s not enough to just carry a gun.  It’s about possessing the skills to read the circumstances, quickly adapt and maneuver, then respond in an unexpected but fluid movement. Only about a third of our schools, gun-free zones, have armed security but not all (Chicago included) have real policemen. Out of the 74,000 missing/lost/stolen guns recently reported, most are in cities you’d never expect. In spite of the almost 20 million background checks in 2012 by the FBI, guns are always available to anyone with enough money to buy or steal them.
The bottom line is to improve safety in your community, your family, your neighborhood, and especially your kids.  Please don’t be so quick to buy the politicians pitches on what to think.  Most are like NYC Mayor Bloomberg who spends weekends in his Bermuda beachfront estate. Bermuda, like England, has extremely strict gun-control laws.  Most police there aren’t even allowed to carry them; Bloomberg and his guards are excluded.
Ordinary citizens should be able to legally protect themselves in any city and on any beach without being a billionaire who is anti-almost-everything unless it’s for him.