A reader responds to the August 27th post, “Enough Is Enough. Say it,” on The PediaBlog:
I’m one of the (few?) gun owners who is perfectly fine with stricter background checks, etc., but I appreciate this article because it addresses the underlying issue of most gun violence – anger. If guns were taken away from angry people, there would be less gun violence, but maybe not less violence in general. I’m reminded of the case only last year when a high school student took to the halls, slashing at his peers with a knife and landing several in the hospital.
Angry people will find ways to release that anger. Until they are able to get the help they need, they will continue to behave in dangerous and deadly ways, with or without weapons.
I think that the almost unlimited accessibility to influence and be influenced (via social media) has contributed hugely to this problem. I wonder how many unpleasant feuds could have been avoided if Twitter or Facebook hadn’t been involved! It’s infinitely easy to misunderstand someone else or misrepresent yourself online, and that can just rekindle ugly fires, resulting in violence.
But that’s just my opinion.
I don’t believe that our reader is expressing a minority view among gun owners about the need for stricter background checks. Daniel Trotta found one well-publicized poll from 2013 that showed more than 90% of American voters — gun owners and non-gun owners — supporting background checks:
By a margin of 92 percent to 7 percent, voters supported background checks, the Quinnipiac University telephone poll showed. In households with a gun, 91 percent were in favor, while 8 percent were opposed, Quinnipiac said.
A number of different studies estimate that approximately one in three Americans owns at least one gun. Many gun owners, in fact, own many guns. These estimates are considered low because of the belief that many people who own guns are afraid of admitting it publicly. Misunderstanding a pediatrician’s responsibility to provide anticipatory guidance to parents about pediatric health and safety, a disturbing number of parents refuse to answer the question, “Do you keep firearms in your house?” Maggie Fox explains why it is important for pediatricians to keep asking:
The pediatrics academy [AAP] highlighted a report last year that showed 500 American children and teenagers die in hospitals every year from gunshot wounds, and other studies show suicide rates go up with access to guns.
Many of these deaths occur in young children who are shot and killed accidentally when they find a loaded gun — usually a handgun — lying around or hidden by a negligent adult. In fact, handguns account for the vast majority of accidents, suicides, and homicides in a country where they are so abundant and readily available. About one-third of all homes in the U.S. that have children have at least one gun in the household, so the number of children who are hurt or killed accidentally from firearms shouldn’t be surprising. (What may be surprising to some is that 60% of Americans who own guns have them “in order to keep safe,” even though, in actuality, guns are rarely used for self-defense.)
Most of us — gun owners and non-gun owners — agree that allowing time for a thorough criminal and mental health background check to be completed before a firearm is sold is a reasonable expectation. Non-gun owners need to understand that gun ownership — for hunting, sport, collecting, or self-defense — is part of the American culture, and that the vast majority of gun owners are passionate, patriotic, responsible, and non-violent. Gun owners, for their part, need to understand that the vast majority of non-gun owners are not calling for the elimination of guns. Rather, I think both groups are mostly of the same mind: We need to enforce current laws, and add new ones if needed, to keep guns out of the hands of people who are most likely to hurt others or hurt themselves. And, we need to increase awareness that guns in the home need to be locked away, unloaded, with ammunition locked and stored in a separate location. Finally, maybe providing all children in the United States with a formal education regarding gun safety is a concept that is long overdue.
Guns are not going away. We need to deal with it.
Demands for more and better gun control laws will not go away either. We need to deal with that, too.