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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Common Sense With Guns

Friends and acquaintances have told me about incidents they have heard or read of where guns have saved people. And I have no doubt owning guns makes people feel safer in some circumstances.

On the other hand, the statistics are frightening about how many women and children are killed with guns, many of the guns kept in their own homes. And guns make suicide so much easier that depressed people who have access to guns are much more likely to be successful in taking their lives. If they had not had access to a gun they might have been treated for depression and lived a happy life.

I was surprised to see that Jane Brody who writes a wellness column for the New York Times about common sense things we can do to improve our health, like exercise and eat well, yesterday wrote an extensive article about guns and the statistics as to how often guns take, rather than save, innocent lives. Here’s a link to her article. The facts are more shocking than I had imagined.

I will add that I have some experience with guns. My father, a World War II combat veteran owned guns. He taught me how to shoot when I was just a child. He also told me to be prepared to kill if I ever had a gun with me and pulled it out for protection.

 On one occasion, my Dad intervened in a fight he saw on the street to try to save a woman. That did not turn out that well—the woman who was being beaten by her boyfriend turned on my father. As did her boyfriend. My Dad might not have stopped and tried to help if he had not had a gun. Nowadays, with cell phones everywhere the better course in such a case is to call 911. I do give him credit for trying to help. But he was lucky not to be one of the statistics where someone took his gun and turned it on him.

On another occasion, at my parents’ home our younger son found one of my Dad’s guns, which were not kept locked. My father believed a gun was no protection if it was not loaded and available. So he did not lock up his guns. And the truth was my father, though I believe well intentioned, was a little paranoid.

Again we were lucky. We got to our son before he could hurt himself or anyone else. After that I never let my young sons be at my parent’s home without having them within sight at all times. And I never felt very safe at their home after that.  After my parents died and we had to clean out their house we discovered my Dad had rigged up a rifle so it would shoot anyone who went into a back storage area, where he had old canned goods and such. I can only guess his mental capacity had declined with age and somehow he thought this was a good idea.

Ultimately, no one was injured by my Dad’s guns. But no one was saved by them either. Good luck aside, it appears his gun ownership was much more likely to have caused harm than have saved lives. Our younger son could have died when he found my father's gun. I might then have been one of those suicide statistics if my father’s gun had resulted in the death of our son. And no doubt our whole family would never have recovered.

I agree gun control is not a problem easily solved with simple solutions. For example, I don’t think it is feasible to ban all guns. But I do agree with Jane Brody that reasonable gun control is one very basic thing we can do to improve and protect our safety and health. Guns should be kept secured. And assault rifles and high capacity ammunition should not be in the hands of civilians.


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