Suicides Homicides: Gun Control

Figure of USA as trigger modified from illustration of Edel Rodriquez, NYTimes, 12/16/12
[Note also how the trigger is dividing the U.S.]

Deaths and Injuries in the U.S. from Firearms

On an average day in the U.S., guns kill 85 of us and maim 20 of our children with injuries requiring hospitalization and another 9 who die before they can reach the Emergency Room. Of the 34 most economically developed countries in the world (OECD nations), we have the 2nd highest murder rate, behind only Mexico (Time Magazine, November 27, 2015). Our national firearm death rate is more than the current all-death rate in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq combined. In 2013, we had 32,877 deaths by firearm, 21,172 via suicide, 11,200 homicides, and 505 by accident.  More than 84,000 survived with such injuries, many of them requiring ongoing care for both physical and mental health. Since the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968, 46 years ago, more U.S. civilians have been killed with guns than all U.S. soldiers who have ever been killed in any war since the founding of our country in 1776, 237 years ago. 

As summarized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, guns in the home are 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than a criminal intruder.  For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there are 22 residents of the home killed or injured: 7 criminal assaults or homicides, 4 accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides (New York Times editorial below).

Why? Because the U.S. has the greatest
   - number of guns possessed by civilians (40% of world's firearms in civilian hands vs. 5% of the world's population)
   - proportion of households with guns (55%)
   - guns available for suicide (the U.S. is the only country with guns as the primary mode of suicide)
   - guns available for accidental injury (more 1- to 5 year-olds die of guns in the U.S. than officers killed in the line of duty)
Nicholas Kristof, NYT editor who grew up on a farm in Oregon, points out (below) that every 6 months more Americans die via guns than have died in the last 25 years from all terrorist attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Kevin Bleyer reports in Me The People (Random House, 2012, p. 229) that "there are 280 million guns in the civilian hands in America--nearly enough for every able-bodied man, woman and child to point, if they chose to do so, at every man, woman and child" (Click here to read the chapter). [NOTE: THE NUMBER IS NOW (JUNE 2017), 400 MILLION; read "Prominence" Report below.] The U.S. has an average rate of assault, burglary, and robbery in comparison to other First-World countries but by far the highest rate of homicide, suicide and accidental death by gun and the weakest gun laws.  Despite the claim of the pro-gun lobbies, it is not true that the 1994-2004 Weapons Ban was not beneficial (cf. item with graphs below).

All of this, to state nothing about the greatest massacre in Oregon's history (as least since native Americans lived here) occurred on October 1, 2015 at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg.

Click here for opinions against gun control

ACP & ACS Recommendations 2018

The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American College or Surgeons (ACS) have released summaries of their recommendations to reduce firearm morbidity and mortality in the U.S., which among the population is the worst in the world in firearm suicide.  Oregon is ranked 6th in the world in this category. 

The Prominence and Acceleration of Gun Deaths among American Youth

Click title to review figures and references

•Since 2007, bullets have killed more American Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs) 15 to 39 years of age than any other cause (Fig. 1).
•The firearm death rate in AYAs has accelerated with statistically significant increases since early 2014 (Table 1, Figs. 2 & 3).
Firearm deaths have replaced motor vehicle accidents as the #1 cause of deaths in AYAs (Table 1, Figs. 1-3).
•As of 2015, there were 56%-91% more firearm deaths than each of the next four most common causes of death in AYAs (Fig. 1).
•The increase in firearm deaths is due to increases in both firearm-mediated suicides and homicides and has been occurring in both males and females (Table 1, Figs. 2 & 3).
•Since 2005-2007, the proportion of all deaths in AYAs due to firearm-mediated suicide has increased in both males and females (Fig. 4, A), and proportionately more firearms have been used for suicide, especially in females (Fig. 4, B).
•As of 2014-2015, the rate of firearm deaths was increasing at the same rate as opioid overdose deaths (Fig. 1), the latter receiving far more national attention.
•The U.S. is undergoing more of an increase in gun deaths in AYAs relative to other causes of death in AYAs than any other high-income country.
•The U.S. has 91% of the world’s children and adolescents who die from guns in high-income countries (Pediatrics July 2017).
•Guns are the 3rd leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17 (Pediatrics July 2017).

Why has the number of gun deaths accelerated in the U.S.?

•It’s not the population increase for which the AYA population has increased only 12% since 19993 while the gun sales have increased >200% (Fig. 6).
•In part, it’s the availability and access to guns (Figs. 7 & 8).
•The U.S. has more guns per capita in citizen hands than any other country.
•In 2015 the average monthly purchase in the U.S. was 2.2 million guns, more than 3x the average of 700,000 per month in 2007 (Fig. 5).

Opioid Deaths Increasing Nationally but Firearm Deaths More Frequent

Prescription Opioid Deaths and Firearm Deaths in Oregon

Data published in The Bulletin and available from the Oregon Health Plan and the Center for Disease Control' WISQAR website paint the picture.

Deaths in Oregon from firearms continue to increase whereas prescription opioid deaths have stopped increasing and may be decreasing

Appeal Law Restricting Phyisicans from Discussing Gun Access

An editorial in the NEJM by attorneys in Boston and a physician in California supports repeal of Florida’s Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act (FOPA), enacted in 2011 in response to concerns raised by some patients whose physicians asked them about gun. The law prohibits physicians from asking patients (or for minors, patients’ parents) about firearm ownership unless they believe “in good faith” that “information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety, or the safety of others” and from entering information about firearm ownership into a patient’s record. The law also bars insurers from denying coverage, increasing premiums, or “otherwise discriminating” against gun owners.

The editorial provides this background: "Every U.S. case–control study ... has shown that the presence of a gun in the home is a strong risk factor for suicide — a risk assumed by the gun owner and imposed on other household members — with the odds of suicide, on average, more than three times as high in homes with guns as in those without guns. For children, the risk of suicide increases approximately fivefold and is related to how safely household firearms are stored. For children 15 years of age or younger, the relative risk of suicide is so high, and firearm ownership so widespread, that the population attributable risk of suicide associated with guns is greater than that associated with major depression."

[Editorial note: this editorial was scheduled for publication before the Florida massacre.]

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban did Reduce Firearm Deaths

Two years ago, this section of the website provided data that implicated the Federal Assault Weapons Ban during 1994-2004 as having been effective in reducing the firearm death rate in the U.S. (below) despite prior reports claiming little to no benefit of the Ban. The years since now demonstrate an even clearer benefit.

For all ages, it now appears to have had a definite effect in reversing the increasing death rate of homicides, suicides and accidental deaths caused by firearms, especially when the ban was first enacted (upper graph). It took longer for the death rate to increase and return to pre-ban levels, as would be expected when a a law is revoked as opposed to its implementation.

In 20- to 34-year-olds, the suicide-by-firerarm rate increased after the ban ended (lower graph).

Oregon's Firearm Death Rate Continues to Increase

In Oregon, the annual number of deaths by firearm have increased steadily since 2000, at a rate of 10 additional deaths per year, not including the 9 deaths at Umpqua Community College in 2015, the deadliest mass shooting in Oregon's modern history (lower chart). The suicide-by-firearm accounts for most of the increase, exceeding an average of at least one per day by 2013.

Oregon has a much higher proportion of firearm deaths that are suicides (~85%, lower chart) compared with the national average (~66%, lower chart). Whereas the nation has experienced had a slight decrease in the homicide rate (upper chart), Oregon's rate has not decreased.

Docs vs. Glocks: If You Own a Gun, Tell Your Kid's Doctor

By Angelica Zen, MD (Resident, UCLA) and Alice Kuo, MD, (Assoc. Prof., Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, UCLA)  |  Washington PostWhen a Florida pediatrician asked ... "Do you have guns in the home? during a checkup in 2010, the reply from a mother of three was sharp: "None of your business". She objected to the query as "invasive", complaining to her local newspaper, "Whether I have a gun has nothing to do with the health of my child."  

And so began what's come to be known as the Docs vs. Glocks dispute. In 2011, after a lobbying push by the National Rifle Association, Florida passed the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act, restricting physicians from asking about gun ownership and from counseling about gun safety in routine appointments. Potential penalties include fines, suspension and loss of a medical license. A federal judge blocked the law as an unconstitutional restriction of doctors' speech. Then an appeals court panel overturned the ruling, emphasizing patients' rights to own guns and to privacy.
This Florida case is just the latest example of how the politics of guns have affected physicians' ability to bring science to bear on what experts can see plainly: That gun violence is a public health issue. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is now preparing to hear the case, and legislators in at least 12 states have expressed interest in similar bills. So it's worth correcting what lawmakers and the court panel misunderstand about the doctor-patient relationship and about the relevance of firearms to pediatric care in a country where more than 2 million children live in homes with unsecured guns.
First, there's the suggestion that a doctor merely asking about guns infringes on the right to bear arms, because of how much power doctors supposedly have over patients. The court panel wrote: "When a patient enters a physician's examination room, the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness. The patient must place his or her trust in the physician's guidance and submit to the physician's authority." To support this contention, the court cited a 1994 law review article that describes how the doctor-patient relationship forces patients to "suspend their critical faculties" and limits their "ability to question physicians and redirect the course of a conversation." ...
As pediatricians, we counsel parents about all of these issues. We explain how to properly install car seats. We caution against children playing with plastic bags. We teach about safe water temperature. We discuss safety around pools.  Gun safety is no different from any of these topics. Comprehensive numbers on gun accidents are hard to come by, in part because National Rifle Association lobbying and limited funding has deterred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting firearm research. But outside research found that in 2015, children accidentally shot themselves or someone else at least 278 times, averaging more than five times a week. By some estimates, keeping guns locked up and unloaded could prevent 70 percent of unintentional shooting deaths among children. [Editorial comment: the effect on preventing suicides in teens would reduce a much greater number of deaths.]
... In a 2006 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, nearly a quarter of parents who reported that their children had not handled a household gun were contradicted by their children.

For the full Commentary, click title

In the Wake of Orlando Taking Steps against Gun Violence"

NEJM Editorial  |  Chana A. Sacks, M.D., Debra Malina, Ph.D., Stephen Morrissey, Ph.D., Edward W. Campion, M.D., Mary Beth Hamel, M.D., M.P.H., and Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D.  | N Engl J Med 2016; 375:e19 September 1, 2016

In fact, it is four complicated problems: 1) mass shootings, 2) suicides that account for two thirds of gun deaths in the United States, 3) homicides and gun-related injuries like those tearing apart the city of Chicago, and 4) accidental shootings that occur when, for instance, toddlers find a parent's gun and kill themselves, a sibling, or a parent. Any group on any part of the political spectrum promising an easy solution and speaking in absolutes does not grasp the reality.It makes sense to be especially wary of groups that are profiting most from the continued carnage by somehow generating record gun sales in the wake of each of these mass shootings.

Click heading or NEJM logo for full editorial

Oregon's Campus Carry Law Expected to Reduce Faculty & Student Quality

Texas’ Backlash Against Guns on Campus, Before They’re Allowed
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times

HOUSTON — Siva Vaidhyanathan was thrilled when he learned he was a finalist to become dean of the communication school at the University of Texas’ flagship campus in Austin. He considered it a “plum job” and liked the idea of returning to his alma matter. But shortly after his interview, the 49-year-old professor at the University of Virginia took himself out of the running.  The reason: He was unwilling to step into the middle of an increasingly contentious debate over guns on campus. ... The so-called campus-carry law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature last year was a victory for gun rights advocates who say it will make campuses safer. But .. it has spurred a movement of protesters who worry that it will make schools more dangerous, hurt recruitment of faculty and students, and create an atmosphere of fear that even affects how professors issue grades.  ...  the University of Texas, where students and faculty have protested and at least two professors have already resigned over the law. One was Daniel Hamermesh, who taught an introductory economics course and said he feared that “a disgruntled student with a gun would ‘lose it,’ pull out the gun and shoot the instructor.” “With 500 students in my class, this did not seem impossible,”  [UT estimates that 5000 students will carry concealed weapons.] Hamermesh, who now teaches at the Royal Holloway University of London, said in an email.  Another is their Nobel Prize winner,

The experience of Utah and Colorado does not support the claim that having more gun owners on campus increases security, according to a study last year by the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, a nonprofit based in Croton Falls, New York. In both states, crime rates on college campuses increased while the student populations dropped. 

Report from Boston Children's Hospital, August 2015

Firearm Ownership and Violent Crime in the U.S.: An Ecologic Study

Michael C. Monuteaux, Lois K. Lee, MD, David Hemenway, PhD, Rebekah Mannix, MD, Eric W. Fleegler, MD
Boston Children’s Hospital (MCM, LKL, RM, EWF), Harvard School of Public Health (DH)
Amer J Prev Med  August 2015 49(2):207–14

Although some view the ownership of firearms as a deterrent to crime, the relationship between population-level firearm ownership rates and violent criminal perpetration is unclear. The purpose of this study is to test the association between state-level firearm ownership and violent crime.  Methods State-level rates of household firearm ownership and annual rates of criminal acts from 2001, 2002, and 2004 were analyzed in 2014. Firearm ownership rates were taken from a national survey and crime data were taken from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports. Rates of criminal behavior were estimated as a function of household gun ownership using negative binomial regression models, controlling for several demographic factors  Results Higher levels of firearm ownership were associated with higher levels of firearm assault and firearm robbery. There was also a significant association between firearm ownership and firearm homicide, as well as overall homicide.  Conclusions The findings do not support the hypothesis that higher population firearm ownership rates reduce firearm-associated criminal perpetration. On the contrary, evidence shows that states with higher levels of firearm ownership have an increased risk for violent crimes perpetrated with a firearm. Public health stakeholders should consider the outcomes associated with private firearm ownership.

Shootings Correlate with Gun Ownership and Not Mental Illness

Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings
PLoS One. 2015; 10(7): e0117259.
Sherry Towers, Andres Gomez-Lievano, Maryam Khan, Anuj Mubayi, and Carlos Castillo-Chavez
Arizona State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine

The state prevalence of firearm ownership is significantly associated with state incidence of mass killings with firearms, school shootings, and mass shootings. Once state prevalence of firearm ownership has been taken into account, there is no significant association between state incidence of these events and state prevalence of mental illness or ranking of strength of firearm legislation. Mass killings not involving firearms are not significantly correlated to any of these variables. Our noted apparent relationship of high-profile shooting incidents to firearm ownership is in concordance with the results of other studies of firearm violence, including homicide and suicide (814, 36).

  8. US Dept of Education. Final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the U.S., 2004.
  9. Hepburn LM, Hemenway D. Firearm availability and homicide: A review of the literature. Aggress Viol Behav. 2004;9:417–40.
10. Siegel M, Ross CS, King III C. The relationship between gun ownership and firearm homicide rates in the U.S., 1981–2010. Amer J Pub Health. 2013;103:2098–105.
11. Rosenfeld R, Baumer E, Messner SF. Social trust, firearm prevalence, and homicide. Annals of Epidemiology. 2007;17:119–25.
12. Hemenway D, Kennedy BP, Kawachi I, Putnam RD. Firearm prevalence and social capital. Annals of Epidemiology. 2001;11:484–90.
13. Miller M, Azrael D, Hemenway D. Household firearm ownership and suicide rates in the United States. Epidemiology. 2002;13:517–24.
14. Miller M, Azrael D, Hepburn L, Hemenway D, et al. The association between changes in household firearm ownership and rates of suicide in the U.S., 1981–2002. Injury Prev. 2006;12:178–82.
36. Hemenway D, Miller M. Association of household handgun ownership, lifetime major depression, and serious suicidal thoughts with suicide rates across US census regions. Injury Prev. 2002;8:313–6.

Suicide Risk Inversely Proportional to Time of Firearm Purchase

Wintemute GJ, et al / N Engl J Med / 341:1583-9, 1999

University of California, Davis
In California, suicide by firearm increased 60-fold during the week after purchase, 30 times during the first month, 6 times during the first year after purchase, and persisted 2-times above average for at least 6 years. In the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among handgun purchasers, accounting for 25% of all deaths and 52% of deaths among women 21 to 44 years old

MGH Internist Nephew's Death and Pleads Reviving Research on Gun Violence

In Memory of Daniel — Reviving Research to Prevent Gun Violence
Chana A. Sacks, M.D.
N Engl J Med February 26, 2015; 372:800-1

To read the commentary, click title

A National Effort to End the Federal Restrictions on Gun Research

On March 6, 2016, the Center for American Progress released a helpful fact sheet on the federal ban on research of gun violence.  

Governor Candidate Claims Violent Crimes in the U.S. are Decreasing

Allen Alley, who was a guest presenter at COMS during his run for Governor of Oregon during the 2008 campaign and is running again, considers himself a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment" and "believes the country should focus on the fact that violent crimes are actually decreasing in the United States".*

Mr. Alley's statement is far from "fact" (Figure).

*Albany Democrat-Herald by Alex Paul, April 8, 2016 - To read entire report, click title

One Week in April, Four Toddlers Shot and Killed Themselves

Reciprocal Firearm Suicide Rate by Law Enactment

The rate of suicide by firearm increased in Missouri after the state repealed the permit-to-purchase legislation whereas it decreased in Connecticut after the state enacted a permit-to-purchase law.  The data are taken from the report below.

Gun-Related Murder Rates in the Developed World

Data Source: United Nations (Max Fisher, The Washington Post)

Of 32 socioeconomically advantated counties around the world, the U.S. (red column in the chart) has by far the greatest number of gun-related murders in the world. With one exception (Chile), all other countires for which data are available have less than one-fourth the number of firearm-mediated deaths that occur in the U.S.  Correlations of suicide and homicide rates with gun availablility are presented above.

The Statewide Firearm Suicide Rate Changed by Law Enactment/Repeal

Effects of Changes in Permit-to-Purchase Handgun Laws in Connecticut and Missouri on Suicide Rates

Crifasi CK, Meyers JS, Vernick JS, Webster DW.  Prevent Med, 2015; 79:43-9
Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

This research at Johns Hopkins indicates that there there  was a 15.4% reduction in firearm suicide rates associated with Connecticut's permit-to-purchase (PTP) law in contrast to a 16.1% increase in Missouri after it's PTP law repealed. There was no evidence that PTP laws were associated with non-firearm suicide rates.

To access entire report, click on title

Guns and Suicide in the U.S. by State

Source: Miller M, Hemenway D. Guns and suicide in the United States. N Engl J Med 2008;359:10-12
... Many ecologic studies covering multiple regions, states, or cities in the United States have also shown a strong association between rates of household gun ownership and rates of completed suicide - attributable, as found in the case-control studies, to the strong association between gun prevalence and gun suicide, without a counterbalancing association between gun-ownership levels and rates of non-gun suicide. We recently examined the relationship between rates of household gun ownership and suicide in each of the 50 states for the period between 2000 and 2002 (J Trauma 2007;62:1029-35). We used data on gun ownership from a large telephone survey (of more than 200,000 respondents) and controlled for rates of poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and drug and alcohol dependence and abuse. Among men, among women, and in every age group (including children), states with higher rates of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicides. There was no association between firearm-ownership rates and non-firearm suicides. To illustrate the main findings, we presented data for the 15 states with the highest levels of household gun ownership matched with the six states with the lowest levels (using only six so that the populations in both groups of states would be approximately equal). In the table the findings are updated for 2001 through 2005.

Guns, Society, and Medicine

Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D. (prior Editor-in-Chief) / N Engl J Med 2015; 372:874-875 / February 26, 2015

For full editorial, click title
Our senses are bombarded daily by violence: kidnappings in Africa; army clashes in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine; prisoners tortured in secret jails; journalists and Jewish persons massacred in Paris; and at home, a Wild West mentality that permits a surgeon to be shot in a hospital, a 2-year-old boy to shoot his mother, and deranged loners to murder innocent children. The solace of our homes and movie theaters gives no respite; clicking through television channels reveals one menacing gunfight after another, and coming attractions at the movies are equally frightening. We should not have to be exposed to these images or to worry about the safety of our children at school or ourselves in the workplace.
In the United States, nearly anyone can get a gun, even one that rapidly fires dozens of bullets. We require universal registration of cars but not of guns. In many places, guns can be carried openly, even in malls, schools, and churches. When household guns are not locked up, they are easy to borrow or steal. Among persons in certain age groups, firearm-related homicides and suicides account for more deaths than do diseases. In some jurisdictions, doctors are forbidden to ask patients whether they are at risk for firearm-related injury. Why do we tolerate such irrational behavior?  ... gun-safety advocates have been losing the battle. Although a few cities and states have managed to pass gun-control legislation, many others have passed laws that allow open carrying of firearms in all public places. Five years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment affirms the right to private ownership of guns. At the federal level, President Barack Obama's promise in his 2013 State of the Union address to enact gun-control legislation was stymied, and the composition of the current Congress augurs ill for such federal legislation.
Surveys show that a strong majority of Americans want better gun control, and the medical community is solidly behind them. So what stands in the way? ... The greatest obstacle by far, however, is the reality that gun-control advocates are "outgunned" by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which mobilizes its members with scare tactics and pours industry-sourced money into blocking any efforts at gun control at the city, state, and national level. Many congressional leaders are NRA members, many more are beholden to the organization for financial campaign support, and still others are intimidated by the power of the NRA to strengthen their election opponents. ...  Without deep cultural and regulatory changes, the chances of reducing gun deaths in the United States are slim indeed.

Physician Killed by Shotgun at Boston's Brigham and Women Hospital

"Being like Mike" Fear, Trust, and the Tragic Death of Surgeon Michael Davidson at Boston Brigham & Women's Hospital
Lisa Rosenbaum, M.D. / N Engl J Med 2015; 372:798-799 / February 26, 2015
Around 11:00 a.m. on January 20, 2015, Stephen Pasceri arrived at the cardiovascular center at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he had an appointment to speak to Michael Davidson, a 44-year-old surgeon who had performed valve surgery on Pasceri's mother a few months earlier. Davidson entered an exam room and greeted Pasceri, who fired two shots at the surgeon at close range before killing himself. A team of Brigham surgeons spent 9 hours in the OR in a futile attempt to save Davidson's life.
It was speculated that Pasceri "had some issue" with his mother's medical treatment. Though she had survived the surgery, she had soon developed complications, perhaps in part related to her underlying lung disease. She'd been admitted to a different hospital, where she'd had a pulmonary hemorrhage after being extubated. Apparently, she'd been on a medication whose side-effect profile included pulmonary bleeding. These facts might have led Pasceri to blame Davidson, according to Pasceri's brother: "He was the surgeon," the brother told the Boston Globe. "I don't know if he prescribed it, but he must have OKed it." ...

One study, for instance, found that between 2000 and 2011, about 154 "hospital-related" shootings occurred2; physicians were victims 3% of the time, and nurses 5%. The violence that does occur is most common in emergency departments; in one survey of emergency physicians, 28% reported having been physically assaulted in the previous year.3 But though most physicians can name colleagues who've been targeted, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that the incidence of homicides at general medical and surgical hospitals is similar to that in lawyers' offices and lower than the rates in hotels, real estate offices, and government workplaces. If we overstate the problem of violence against physicians, we risk grasping for solutions that may cause more harm than good: Metal detectors? Armed physicians? ...

Effort to Expand Gun Control: Grants Pass Initiative

By Jeff Barnard / The Associated Press  /  GRANTS PASS  Fresh off a victory in Washington state, a leading gun control group backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg is hoping to make Oregon its next prize in a campaign to require gun sales to go through universal background checks.  Everytown for Gun Safety backed a voter-approved initiative in Washington last year that made the state the 17th in the country to expand background checks past the federal standard applying only to licensed gun dealers.
"This is our top priority," said the group's spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb.
The organization came out of a merger last year between Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It has been spending tens of millions of dollars on political operations.
Now its attention is on Oregon, where the state Legislature narrowly failed to pass legislation two years running to require background checks for private gun sales.  According to state records, Everytown spent nearly $600,000 on the 2014 election: $450,000 in contributions to candidates and committees, and $110,000 on other grassroots efforts. Part of that was devoted to strengthening the Democratic majority in the state Senate, the key battleground.
Democrats ended up expanding their majority by two seats to 18-12 in the Senate. The party holds a stronger majority in the House. Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, is a longtime supporter and is expected to sign the bill if it passes.
Oregon voters extended background checks to require them for sales at gun shows in 2000.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, plans to introduce legislation to expand that to private gun sales. The bill would require anyone selling a gun privately to call state police for a background check on criminal history and mental illness. It would exclude sales among family members, inheritances and antique guns.
"I want to put closure on the only loophole we have on the background check law," said Prozanksi, a native Texan who owns a few guns. "Most all of us gun owners, as well as the general public, believe we should take reasonable steps to stop felons from getting easy access to guns. This will do that."  ...
About 40 percent of Oregon households have guns. And the state has had its share of horrifying shootings. In 1998, Kip Kinkel went to his high school in Springfield with guns his parents bought to teach him to shoot. He opened fire on the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. In 2012, three days before the deadly Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, Jacob Tyler Roberts took a stolen semi-automatic AR-15 rifle to the Clackamas Town Center mall outside Portland, where he killed two people and wounded one before killing himself.  Last June, high school freshman Jared Michael Padgett took his brother's assault-style rifle to school. He killed a student and wounded a teacher before killing himself. [At Bend High School last February, a student killed himself with his father's firearm.] ...

Georgia's Absurd Gun Law

Reported in The Week, May 9, 2014
"Have we gone stark raving mad?" asked E.J. Dionne in this oped in the Washington Post on April 27, 2014. Given how permissive this country's gun laws are already, you might have assumed that "noting could be done to coddle the gun lobby." But the week before, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the "guns everywhere bill": a preposterous state law allowing firearm owners to pack heat in churches, bars, libraries, schools, and some government buildings. True, pastors and bar owners will still be able to : opt out: and ban weapons from their establishments-- but if they do so, they'll be branded liberal elitists".  And the bill doesn't stop there.  From now on, those caught with a gun at airport security will escape unpunished [editor: Hartfield Jackson airport in Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world], gun stores no longer have to keep records of their sales, and cops will not be able to ask to see the licenses of people carrying guns.  The law is beyond parody--and lays bare the "utter irrationality of our politics" for the world to see. "No issue better demonstrates how deeply divided our nations is by region, ideology, and party." In Gun Country, people want firearms in church because guns are their religion.

Bend High School Shooting Suicide

For an oped by a prior COMS president published in The Bulletin, click title to read
"Suicide is a Valid Reason to Reduce Firearm Availability"

Gun Control Hearing is Emotionally Charged

Expanding Background Checks Discussed at Legislature           For full report, click title +75 cents
By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin  /  Feb 7, 2014  
SALEM  Armed state police officers stood at the ready at the Capitol on Thursday as lawmakers listened to testimony on one of the more emotionally charged measures of the short legislative session: expanding background checks on firearm sales. The measure, Senate Bill 1551, would require background checks on gun sales between private parties. Proponents said it closes one of the final loopholes working toward ensuring guns aren't sold to felons. Opponents argued it moves toward creating a gun registry and would hurt law-abiding citizens.  ...
Gov. John Kitzhaber testified on behalf of the bill, calling it a "reasonable step." "This one bill can]t completely erase gun violence," Kitzhaber said. But expanding criminal background checks, the governor said, goes toward ensuring "guns don't fall into the wrong hands."
The governor was joined on a panel by Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head while serving as an Arizona congresswoman. Kelly told the committee that Oregon and Arizona have several similarities: the Western spirit, an appreciation for hunting and gun ownership, and unfortunately, the shared experience of public mass shootings.
Kelly said it's "too dangerous to wait
," and it's time to pass the measure. When dangerous people have guns, he said, "We're all vulnerable."
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, the key backer of the measure, shot back.  If the NRA's policy is "guns don't kill people, people kill people," Prozanski asked Reid, why wouldn't expanded background checks to help keep guns out of felons" hands be the right move, he asked.  ...
Jenna Passalacqua, whose mother, Cindy Yuille, was fatally shot at Clackamas Town Center near Portland, told lawmakers it's been a year since her mother died and "nothing has changed."

Every Day an Average of 20 U.S. Children Hospitalized for Firearm Injury

USA Today / January 27, 2014        For full report, click title 

Almost one child or teen an hour is injured by a firearm seriously enough to require hospitalization, according to a study reported in Pediatrics. Six percent [453] of the 7,391 hospitalizations resulting from firearm-related injuries in 2009 resulted in a death ... The damage caused by gun-related injuries rarely gets the same attention as fatalities, "but that every day, 20 of our children are hospitalized for firearms injury, often suffering severe and costly injuries, clearly shows that this is a national public health problem," says Robert Sege, director of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy at Boston Medical Center and a co-author of the study. Children who survive firearm injuries often require extensive follow-up treatment, including rehabilitation, home health care, hospital readmission from delayed effects of the injury, and mental health or social services, Sege says. ... "this is the first [study] to highlight the burden of non-fatal injuries using hospitalization data." ... other findings show:
The most common types of firearm injuries included open wounds (52%), fractures (50%) and internal injuries of the thorax, abdomen or pelvis (34%).
In children under age 10, 75% of hospitalizations were due to unintentional injuries.
Rates were highest for those ages 15 to 19 (27.94 per 100,000.) ...
The findings emphasize "the need for funding for public health research to find the best way to reduce children's access to firearms," he says.
In the absence of such research, Sege says, the best advice is to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that "the safest home for children and teens is one without guns," and if there are guns in the home, they should be "stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked away in a separate place

Mental Illness, Gun Access Important for Doctors to Note

By Archie Bleyer, MD / In My View  /  The Bulletin / October 12, 2013
To read the OpEd, click title
A statement removed by The Bulletin editors:
Is Mr. LaPierre himself mentally challenged, when he asks us to focus on mental illness after the very organization he leads stealthily induced Congress to prevent us from asking about guns among our patients and their families?

Questions Persist Despite Expanding Gun Data

By Michael Luo and Mike McIntire / New York Times / September 29. 2013
Also in The Bulletin / September 29. 2013 - For full report, click title +75 cents
See also USA Today report above, January 27, 2014

Photo depict Lucas Heagren, who shot himself with a gun
at his family's home and whose death was classified as a homicide,
holds a .22-caliber rifle, given to him as a present from his father.

The .45-caliber pistol that killed Lucas Heagren, 3, on Memorial Day last year at his Ohio home had been temporarily hidden under the couch by his father. But Lucas found it and shot himself through the right eye. ...
A few days later in Georgia, Cassie Culpepper, 11, was riding in the back of a pickup with her 12-year-old brother and two other children. Her brother started playing with a pistol his father had lent him to scare coyotes. Believing he had removed all the bullets, he pointed the pistol at his sister and squeezed the trigger. It fired, and blood poured from Cassie's mouth.
Cases like these are among the most gut-wrenching of gun deaths. Children shot accidentally are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.
They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting. And there are far more of these innocent victims than official records show. ...
A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas and Cassie, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children younger than 15 identified by the Times in eight states where records were available.

Evidence That The Federal Gun Control Act Reduced Firearm Deaths

The gun lobbies in the U.S. have contended that the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994-2004 was ineffective and thus no such legislation should be enacted.

Not so.The U.S. annual firearm death rates (homicides and suicides) show clearcut benefit in teens and young adult males during the ban as evidenced by:

1) a dramatic increase of homicide by guns being reversed and striking decrease during the early years of the act (Figure, top panel),
2) a subsequent increase in homicides after the act expired (Figure, top panel), and
3) a distinct decrease in suicides when the law was in place (Figure, bottom panel) (for suicide data, click here).

Since the vast majority of homicides and most suicides in the U.S. occur in males and in this age group, the correlation is even more significant.

Data from the U.S. Department_of Justice and Surveillance,_Epidemiology and End Results accessed April 1, 2012 (note: no April Fool's).

Gun Debate Extends Reach of Colorado Recall Races

New York Times / September 3. 2013; also published by The Bulletin
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad have each donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. The NRA is buying political advertisements. New York state's junior senator sent a fundraising email. And the election has attracted news coverage from as far away as Sweden. All this over a homegrown campaign to oust two Democratic state senators who provided crucial support for a package of strict new state gun control laws. As the recall elections [the first of their kind in Colorado's history] draw closer, the race has swelled from a local scuffle into a proxy battle in the nation's wrenching fight over gun control. Overall, both sides have dedicated about $2 million to the campaigns, most of it in support of the two senators: John Morse, the president of the Colorado Senate, and Angela Giron, who represents the Southern Colorado city of Pueblo.

Assault Rifle Goes Off, Killing [a 5-Year-Old] Child [in Grants Pass, OR]

By The Associated Press / June 29. 2013
Published in The Bulletin Day the Day Before

GRANTS PASS   A 5-year-old girl has been killed and a woman wounded in Grants Pass after an assault rifle went off and shot them in an upstairs room of an apartment, police said. ... Police said Jon Andrew Meyer Jr. was arrested Thursday night without incident at the scene. ... The district attorney's information charging Meyer identified the girl who was killed as Alyssa Bobbit, and the woman who was wounded as Karen Hancock. ... Police said Meyer was in a downstairs room of the apartment when the rifle went off there, and the girl and the woman were upstairs in the same apartment. The woman was not related to the girl, whose mother was also in the apartment, but not shot, Turner said. ...

Gun-Related Citizen Deaths

The recent shooting in South Africa prompted an update of data from Wikipedia. Among civilized counties (Mexico excluded due to gang-related deaths), the United States is way out in front for suicides by gun and third to South Africa and Brazil in homicides and suicides by gun.  Click title to read the Wikipedia entry.

Bill Riders Stymie Gun Research, Regulation

By Anita Kumar / McClatchy Newspapers / April 4. 2013
Also published in The Bulletin / April 4, 2013
WASHINGTON  - Each year, lawmakers quietly tuck language into spending bills that restricts the ability of the federal government to regulate the firearms industry and combat gun crime. It's the reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (and the NIH) can't research gun violence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can't use data to detect firearms traffickers, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can't require background checks on older guns.  Since the late 1970s, more than a dozen provisions have been added to must-pass spending bills with no hearings, no debate and no vote, in a way that's designed to circumvent the usual legislative process.

For Gun Control

Excerpts from The Bulletin's In My View and My Nickel's Worth supporting gun control.
Since Newtown, no other topic has had as many letters sent to The Bulletin's Editors.

Reasonable gun control By Ron Carver, MD,, Volunteers in Medicine Clinic of the Cascades founder, of Bend  (December 23. 2012)

The recent tragedies in Newtown, Conn., and Clackamasare beyond comprehension. I weep for the innocent lives taken in these mass killings, for the families devastated and the communities broken by these unfathomable events.
Our leaders talk of "American Exceptionalism," how our nation is "a shining city upon a hill," a beacon of liberty, individualism and populism. Sadly the events of this past week and of the many recurring horrors of recent years from repeated killings and mass murders from all-too-available automatic weapons suggests that we are instead a nation of violence, despair and too much mental illness that goes undetected and untreated.
When are we going to have an intelligent and in-depth discussion of the issue of reasonable gun control in our nation? When will our leaders begin to seriously address these continuing tragedies that occur throughout our land time and again? When will our churches and our religious leaders say "enough"? How many more innocent children and mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters have to die? ...

Tighten Oregon's gun control laws By Saundra Hopkins of Sunriver (

I was raised in Idaho in a family that hunted. My husband grew up in Wisconsin and hunted with his family. He and I enjoy pheasant hunting with my great hunting dog. I know in our county there are others who own guns and use them responsibly, as we do.
In 2002, along with my husband and daughter, I became a victim of gun violence. This happened in a Third World country where we were teaching in a community school for the children of employees of a U.S. mining company.  Of the 10 teachers returning from a picnic, three were killed, including another Oregonian, Ted Burgon. My husband was almost the fourth. The wounded survivors included my 6-year-old daughter.  Had someone told me that events like this are almost daily occurrences in my own country, I would have thought they were insane. I explain this so you will understand that I come to the issue of gun safety from two viewpoints. I don't hate guns; I want responsible gun owners such as my family and my neighbors to continue to have access to their guns. I also want Oregon to close a loophole that allows criminals to purchase guns without a background check.
Every year, thousands of guns are sold in Oregon in private sales where a background check is not required. Out of all of Oregon's counties, our own county ' Deschutes ' saw the highest prevalence of gun ads listed by unlicensed sellers, at 609 per 100,000 residents, according to recent research by Everytown for Gun Safety. In only the last 10 years, 567 Oregonians were murdered with guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control. An additional 3,440 died in firearm suicides or accidents with a gun.   In particular, the losses from gun violence sustained by our state's law enforcement are indicative of the loopholes in our background- check safety net. People who were prohibited from possessing firearms killed more than half of Oregon law enforcement officers who were shot to death between 1980 and 2014. Background checks have blocked more than 30,000 people in Oregon from purchasing a gun since 2007. The people who were stopped from buying guns included felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts and other dangerous people. 
For our background-check system to be fully effective, we need to close the loophole that lets criminals buy guns from strangers they meet online with no background check required. Oregon stands alone, of the three West Coast states, in not requiring background checks for sales by unlicensed sellers. ...
The Oregon Legislature has a chance this year to pass responsible, common-sense legislation that will protect all of us. Oregon's law-abiding citizens will be able to rest easy about who is buying guns in our state, in person or online.
For 12 years, I have lived with the aftermath of guns in the wrong hands. Lawmakers of Oregon: Pass SB 941 and spare Oregon's families from the pain and suffering my family experienced.

Myth is misused in gun control debate by Will Warne of Bend  (

The modern American mythology of Constitutionally guaranteed, easy access to guns is undermining our collective and individual well- being. All societies use mythology to help define themselves. Some myths ask citizens to aspire to a higher vision. Other myths are perpetuated to justify a status quo that may or may not benefit society. To succumb purely to mythology as our guide we give up our more powerful providence; the ability to objectively and rationally understand reality. The majority of American history and Constitutional interpretation limited easy access to guns. For most of our history, gun rights were not a proxy for our socio-economic views. They were a relatively straightforward interpretation of an 18th century Second Amendment. It wasn't until the mid 1960s and 1970s that the right to bear arms converged with a more general sense of how some people defined their very specific, "American" identity. America's useful mythology of independence and individualism has been misappropriated and grafted to a mythology of universal gun rights as an embodiment of what it means to be an American. The negative statistics are staggering. Instead of exemplifying what is great about being American, gun violence manifests the worst of our irrational adherence to a misguided mythology of freedom. Regardless of politics, there are few risks more profound than over 100,000 victims a year of a mythological "universal right." Every six years, we kill more of each other and ourselves than U.S. soldiers were killed in World War II. We have created a mythology that wages war on ourselves. Perpetuating irrational laws that enable violence on this scale should be an American myth we collectively reject. ...
We only have to turn to Germany in the 1930s or Cambodia in the 1970s or the modern Middle East to see what happens when mythology is used to undermine collective well-being and security.  Myths are always comprised of truth and fantasy. It is time for Americans to return to a more balanced view of gun rights. The fantasy that our founding fathers envisioned a society with such easy and destructive access to guns that it risked undermining their core values of an open, free and safe society is absurd. And our rational minds know it. Equally unreasonable is the expectation that guns can't play a role in our culture. They can. But not at the expense of America's most powerful and useful myth, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Gun Control is needed by Allen Anderson of Bend  (December 27, 2013)
In December 2012, two men [one in China and the other in the United States] entered elementary schools with weapons and attempted to murder students.  The man in the U.S. was armed with guns and shot 20 children. None survived.
The man in China was armed with a knife and stabbed 22 children. They all survived.
It is a favorite argument of those who oppose gun control that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."
These nearly simultaneous, nearly identical incidents and their very different outcomes appear to suggest otherwise.
In 1996, after a massacre that left 35 people dead, Australia banned semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. As a result, the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.
These two examples show that gun control is justified. In this day and age, there is no need for citizens to own semiautomatic or automatic firearms. Gun control is justified and needed.

Protest NRA's regional assembly in Bend by Jim Hauser of Bend (March 6. 2013)
Every day The Bulletin promotes the sale of deadly weapons in its classifieds section. Today was another opportunity for the newspaper to garner more profits without any perceived responsibility. An AK-47, multiple Bushmasters and other deadly weapons were all on sale. The Bulletin does bear moral responsibility for these sales, but (apparently) profits are all that matter to The Bulletin. Not only the woman who dropped a derringer out of her handbag in a Bend McDonald's restaurant and critically shot her husband in the abdomen or the young man who mistakenly shot himself in his car in the Bend Bi-Mart parking lot, but any convicted felon could buy these deadly weapons without undergoing a background check. It is easier to buy a gun than to register an automobile or obtain a driver's license. This is ludicrous. Having a gun at home increases the odds of someone in the family dying by firearm by almost 300 percent. It also increases the risk of someone at home committing suicide fivefold. Nearly 3,000 Americans have been killed by guns since the Newtown school murders last December. ... The NRA will be holding its annual banquet at the Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center, March 23. Please join me in protesting this insanity. The Bulletin should be ashamed of itself. Don't be afraid to speak up. Innocent people continue to be slaughtered daily.

Not feeling safer  by Ethan Singer of Bend (March 10. 2013)
 wish I could say that all my armed fellow Central Oregonians made me feel safer. However, ... While soldiers and police officers may be prepared for an armed standoff or a firefight, I don't believe many civilian gun owners are. In those situations, an armed, untrained individual is going to be a danger, not a savior. I also question whether some of my armed neighbors are equipped to recognize tyranny when it appears. With some of them saying we are close to totalitarian rule or that the current administration resembles Hitler's, I don't feel they have the good judgment to decide when armed insurrection is the best course of action. .. I don't want armed fools threatening what we have created over the last 200 or more years. If you disagree with a policy or two, find someone new to vote for, or run for office yourself. Please don't bring your Taliban-like armed mayhem to our streets in search of some misguided "Second Amendment solution."

More gun misinformation  by Lee Garl of Bend (March 7. 2013 )
... We are told the "right to own a gun also comes with responsibilities." Wow, "responsibilities," now that is a word we don't hear very often. How about if we apply "responsible" to other situations, like your sex life? Get pregnant because you didn't take precautions? Be "responsible" for the baby. You don't want the baby? Give it up for adoption! Gabby Giffords said, "our children deserve nothing less." ... because children are killed by a deranged person who did not have legal access to guns, everyone who owns guns must comply with whatever gun restrictions can be rammed through Congress. Abortion has killed many more millions of babies than those killed at Newtown. Killing babies is killing babies!

Support background checks  by Andrew Curtis of Bend (March 3, 2013)
... our country needs to institute nationwide, universal gun checks. A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University of 1,772 registered voters showed an overwhelming support for requiring background checks for all gun buyers, with 92 percent in support. All types of households were polled, and homes that owned a gun showed a support level of 91 percent. Universal background checks are a reasonable approach to the gun control issue now facing our nation. We risk losing more freedoms if we do not take some pro-active measures to keep gun ownership limited to law-abiding citizens. ... The U.S. will always be a gun-owning country, and let's take action to keep it that way. Join me in supporting nationwide, universal background checks.

Focus on people's use of guns  by Sandra Knapp of Bend (February 21, 2013)
... two claims have been repeated in letters to the editor and elsewhere. The two claims, "guns don't kill people" and "people kill people," are pre-emptive, meaningless statements that were fabricated to filibuster effective reasoning about gun regulations. The two claims have since been reflexively recited to create a stalemate, thereby guaranteeing a status quo. The focal point of gun regulation should be "the use of guns by people," just as the focal point of driver's licenses and traffic regulations has always been the interaction of "people and vehicles." Regulations for driving a passenger car are different than driving a school bus or taxi or 18-wheeler. ... The responsibility to regulate "individuals by activity" is a general belief and value that is wildly held in our culture. ...

What well-regulated militia  by Ron Knapp of Bend (February 20, 2013)
In The Bulletin on Feb. 12, William Logan offered his interpretation of the relationship between an individual's gun ownership and the Second Amendment. ... prior to our war for independence, there was no "well regulated militia" (nor, arguably, were we a "free state"). Currently we have an Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, and various other federal, state, county and local "well regulated" ersatz militia with responsibilities for our security. The evidence that I was expecting from Logan, evidence that must satisfy the condition of the Second Amendment, is: With what well regulated militia is he associated, and what are a few examples of their regulations with which he has agreed to abide? Perhaps the Second Amendment doesn't need amending - just enforcement.

Guns to kill people  by Harlie Peterson of Bend (February 5, 2013)
I would like to address the National Rifle Association's proposition that "guns don't kill people; people kill people." Using the ancient philosophical Latin tenet of"reductio ad absurdum" (reduce the proposition to an absurdity and see if it still holds), suppose that the only weapon we could use to kill people would be toothpicks - toothpicks! ...  People don't kill people; guns kill people.

Times have changed  by Cliff Shrock of Redmond (February 2, 2013)
I have been a gun owner all my life. I am 88 years old and a World War II veteran. I have spent many days hunting game birds and some deer. ... The Second Amendment was proposed in 1789 by President Madison and others, and adopted by Congress in 1791, with the Bill of Rights. That means that at that time, you would have been able to have a one-shot musket loader for protection, be it pistol or rifle, possibly a bolt-action rifle (I'm not sure when they came into use). Can you imagine a mentally ill person or a madman going into a shopping mall, theater, school or any public place and mowing down multiple persons with any of those guns? Times have changed and we need to change accordingly. I am sick and tired of gun advocates and the NRA saying ... "You're not going to take away my Second Amendment rights." I don't think anybody is trying to. Think safety here! If we had strict control over gun sales by commercial dealers, gun shows and private sales, etc., so we had records of who had guns and what kind, I think it would be much safer for everyone. No legitimate gun owner, including myself, would object to that.

Notice militia in Second Amendment  by James H. Schultz of Hines, Oregon (January 30, 2013)
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states that: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." In all the "right to bear arms" arguments I have read and heard and in all the pro- and anti-gun control discussions, I haven't seen or heard anything about the "militia" part. I must have missed Congress' having deleted "militia" from the Second Amendment. ...

Treat guns like cars, boats  by Gary Will of La Pine (January 18, 2013)
An answer to gun control may be the way the state of Oregon regulates cars and boats. These are two tight-fisted techniques that have burgeoned with successful results. If you own a car, then you pay a road tax at the gas station, as well as fees for licensing and for insurance. If you own a boat, then you pay a fee to put it on the water and must show that you know how to use it safely. Police patrol the use of both cars on the roads, and boats on the lakes. You have to pass exams for both cars and boats to be legal and avoid penalties. Cars kill people, boats kill people, and guns kill people. Police try to lower the number killed by using speed limits and driver/boat training. Since police are organized and know how to do it, add guns to their list. ... Each gun will be registered and taxed like cars and boats. Gun sellers will have to report each sale to the police.

Guns kill children  by Ann Byers of Sunriver (December 20, 2013)
...  Our leaders talk of "American Exceptionalism," how our nation is "a shining city upon a hill," a beacon of liberty, individualism and populism. Sadly the events of this past week and of the many recurring horrors of recent years from repeated killings and mass murders from all-too-available automatic weapons suggests that we are instead a nation of violence, despair and too much mental illness that goes undetected and untreated. When are we going to have an intelligent and in-depth discussion of the issue of reasonable gun control in our nation? When will our leaders begin to seriously address these continuing tragedies that occur throughout our land time and again? When will our churches and our religious leaders say "enough"? How many more innocent children and mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters have to die? There were 31,224 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2007, far more in one year than occurred on 9/11 and in the ensuing years to American military personnel in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. ... I fear more will continue to die, more tragedies will occur and more families will be torn apart. Such is our American Exceptionalism.

There must be compromise in gun-control changes  by Al Baensch of Prineville (March 3. 2013)

These pages have been filled with arguments about guns, assault rifles and the Second Amendment. Notably absent has been concern for people, civilized society and common sense. ... We need to be aware that constitutional scholars understand this right in the context of militias who owned muskets to secure the state, not necessarily extending that right to every individual. The notion of keeping arms against the state, in defense of the Constitution, is rooted in politically inspired fears. Lost in this misguided thinking is the necessity of compromise in democratic process. The Constitution makes no provisions for the use of guns against an overreaching government. Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution: "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasions." Militias have been replaced by standing militaries, to secure the state against invasion and insurrection, not to overthrow it. Armed insurrection can only violate the Constitution, never uphold it. Peaceful channels are provided to hear and redress grievances. ...

Gun owners should be liable by Helen Seidler of Bend (February 22, 2013
The presumably unintentional midday shooting of a man by his wife in Bend's northside McDonald's on Feb. 7 gives us the opportunity to reflect on Oregon's gun laws and the issue of public safety. The shooting occurred when the wife's loaded and unlocked gun fell on the floor, sending a bullet into the husband's stomach. ... Gun owners should be held liable for damage caused by their weapons to people and property. This would include leaving their weapons unsecured so that children and those seeking to steal weapons are able to access them. [A reason to have a gun] is self-defense in the home (which requires accepting the fact that statistically, those who live in homes with guns are at far greater risk of harm than any intruder might be). ... Oregon's gun laws are notoriously lax, requiring no registration or safety training in order to buy a gun, no safety locking devices or safety standards for guns, and no penalty for allowing a minor access to a firearm. While Oregon does require background checks of purchasers at gun shows, sales through the newspaper and the Internet are free of these checks. There is much work to be done on the gun safety issue.

Don't blame media, lack of religion for shootings by Jake Buehler of Bend (January 19, 2013)
The first undeserving recipient of uninformed blame is so-called "violent" media. This is already a useless argument considering that the youth of other developed, Western nations consume identical violent video games, movies and television, and yet the number of mass shootings in these countries is negligible. In fact, annual gun-related deaths in nations like Australia, the U.K., and Japan typically range below one hundred; in comparison, the U.S. has roughly a staggering 10,000 gun-related deaths yearly. Even after accounting for population size differences between nations, the difference between ourselves and every other Western nation is astounding. If graphic media was causal for gun violence, then these other countries would meet our own disastrous levels of carnage, but this is not the case.
The next preposterous argument ... is that some recent, generational "lack of morality" caused by a decreasing influence of religion (exclusively Christianity) in public life is responsible for these events. Supporters of this view exhibit a paranoid belief of Christian persecution, and reject the notion of a separation between church and state, calling for "God to be put back in schools." However, religion was never extirpated from the public sphere; only mandated adherence to religious views have been rejected, and rightfully so. In a public school, teachers can teach the Bible in a literary context; they cannot teach the Bible as truth. ... It should also be noted that nations with low levels of gun violence, particularly Scandinavian countries, are generally non-religious, far more so than the pious U.S. If the "more God" theory was correct, then the streets of atheistic Stockholm would be wrapped in chaos, swarmed by marauding contingents of maniacal shooters. This is very far from reality ,,,

Psychological perspective By Don Hartsough, PsyD, of Bend (January 2, 2013)
... I would offer Bulletin readers the perspective of a psychologist who has specialized in crisis intervention, including suicide intervention, and hostage negotiation with a major urban police department.  ... The urgent call for more mental health services that is now being heard in legislatures and repeated by the media is thus way too broad if it is intended to prevent mass shootings. The young man who killed so many was, in my view, a deeply troubled person, but he was not psychotic; as a former FBI behavioral analyst said, "He knew exactly what he was doing." To be effective, added mental health resources should be devoted primarily to crisis and suicide intervention. ...
Then there is the matter of lethality. If you are trying to help a family, for example, with a seriously suicidal family member, you insist that they make the likely means of committing suicide unavailable to the troubled person. Remove guns and knives and potent drugs from easy access. ...  Psychologists will readily admit that identifying a specific individual as a potential mass shooter - picking him out among all the troubled people in our nation - is nearly impossible. Instead, here is what we, as a nation, can do: 1. Limit access to weapons whose only function is to fire deadly ammunition in rapid fire bursts in limited time (so-called "assault weapons") - this reduces lethality. 2. Increase the likelihood that potentially suicidal mass killers will have the opportunity to come in contact with an experienced helper who can help them solve their problems before they create a tragedy.

Parents concerned about gun safety by Alandra Johnson  of Bend (February 1. 2013)
... Just as there is no consensus on gun control, there is no consensus on how to talk to kids about gun safety issues. While some hunter educators believe talking to kids is essential, some gun safety advocacy groups say talking to kids does little to help. Parents will have to figure out the approach that feels best for them.
How many guns? Many people in Central Oregon own guns. Between 9,000 to 10,000 people in Deschutes County have concealed handgun permits, said Deschutes County Sheriff's Office Capt. Tim Edwards. That figure doesn't account for the possible thousands of local residents who own hunting rifles or handguns but don't have a concealed carry permit. Edwards says there is no way of measuring exactly how many people own guns locally. But he believes "most homeowners in Deschutes County probably have guns."
Jennie Lintz, the deputy director for the Center to Prevent Youth Violence in New York, .. says talking to kids about guns is fine, but ultimately "talking to young children doesn't work." She refers to studies in which children are taught about the dangers of guns and then, when placed in a room for observation, ignore that information and play with the guns anyway. "Children don't listen. Children make impulsive decisions," Lintz said.
Lintz says guns are "too sexy and too attractive" and children are not able to have self-control around guns. In one such study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics in 2001, small groups of boys age 8 to 12 were placed in a room where some water guns and a real handgun were hidden in drawers. Children in 76 percent of the groups that found the real gun handled it and kids from 48 percent of the groups that found it pulled the trigger. Prior to the study, parents were asked to rank their sons' interest in guns; these rankings appeared to have no bearing on a child's likelihood to play with the gun. According to the study, "Boys who were believed to have a low interest in real guns were just as likely to handle the handgun or pull the trigger as boys who were perceived to have a moderate or high interest in guns."

Dangerous Gun Myths

Editorial / The Gun Challenge / New York Times / February 2, 2013
Most of this editorial had to do with "an absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and their children." The witness ... told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the limits on firepower proposed by Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, would harm women because an assault weapon "in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon." ... there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home. ... In the 1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston, Tex. They found that firearms are far more often fired in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.

Preventing Gun Deaths in Children

Judith S. Palfrey, M.D., and Sean Palfrey, M.D. N Engl J Med 368:401-3,2013
As practicing pediatricians who have lost patients to gun violence, ... our sadness is deepened by our knowledge that the deaths, terror, and post-traumatic stress of the relatives and friends left behind could have been prevented. ... Gun injuries [in 1 to 24 year-olds in the U.S.} cause twice as many deaths as cancer, 5 times as many as heart disease, and 15 times as many as infections (chart) (1).
... Little children explore their worlds without understanding danger, and in one unsupervised moment, an encounter with a gun can end in fatality. School-age children often enter the worlds created by television shows, movies, and video games. Because of their developmental age, school-age children don't necessarily understand that people who are really shot may really die. A firearm in their hands can transform fantasy into tragedy. Even in our own lives, this risk has been manifest: to this day, one of us is haunted by the childhood memory of aiming a loaded rifle at a babysitter.
Teenagers get into fights over girlfriends or sneakers, get furious or scared. Alcohol and drugs may impair their judgment. A fistfight may cause transient injuries, but a gunfight can kill rivals, friends, or innocent bystanders. Depressed young people may attempt suicide. Less than 5% of such attempts involving drugs are lethal, but 90% of those involving guns are (2). Our niece might be alive today if she hadn't had easy access to a handgun at 18. ... The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recognizing all these vulnerabilities, declared in a policy statement on firearms in October 2012 that "the absence of guns from homes and communities is the most effective measure to prevent suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries to children and adolescents.(2)"
In the early 1990s, ... the death rate was so high (nearly 28 of every 100,000 people 15 to 19 years of age) (2) that pediatricians joined with other professionals (police officers, clergy, and educators) to find ways to combat the epidemic.... AAP guidelines recommend that when families report the presence of firearms in the house, pediatricians should counsel about gun removal and safety measures (gun locks and safe storage). ...
... In a randomized, controlled, cluster-design study by the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network, the intervention group that received specific gun-safety counseling from their doctors reported significantly higher rates of handgun removal or safe storage than did the control group. This study showed that families do follow through on pediatricians' recommendations about gun safety (3).
Despite this evidence, in 2011, Florida passed legislation, the Firearms Owners' Privacy Act, making it illegal for a doctor to conduct preventive screening by asking families about guns in the home - essentially "gagging" health care providers. ... In response, the AAP's Florida chapter brought suit, and in June 2012, Miami-based U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke issued a permanent injunction banning the state from enforcing the law. Governor Rick Scott has appealed the ruling, and similar bills have been introduced in three additional states.
At the federal level, the Affordable Care Act Section 2717(c) sets restrictions on the collection and aggregation of data on guns in the home. Furthermore, Congress has restricted the research activities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by stipulating that no funds that are made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC "may be used to advocate or promote gun control"(4). Strictures like these often have a chilling effect on the gathering of important public health data. ...
As a nation, we have it in our power to protect our children from gun injuries, as other countries have done. ...
We believe that, at a minimum, several specific measures should be taken. First, the ban on assault weapons should be reinstituted. Magazine and ammunition capacity and the tissue-destruction capability of ammunition should be limited. Rather than increasing the number of guns in public places, as was recently suggested by the National Rifle Association, we need to set a goal of reducing the number of guns in our homes and communities. This reduction can be accomplished through tighter consumer-safety regulations, as well as licensure and certification of gun owners. Federal restrictions on the collection of public health data about gun-related injuries should be reversed (4). Continued emphasis should be placed on limiting children's viewing of violent material on TV and through video games. Finally, we must dedicate more state and local funding to effective treatment of young people who are identified by parents, schools, and law-enforcement or mental health professionals as being at high risk for committing interpersonal violent acts. ...
1. WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (  2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention Executive Committee. Firearm-related injuries affecting the pediatric population. Pediatrics 2012;130:e1416-e1423   3. Barkin SL, Finch SA, Ip EH, et al. Is office-based counseling about media use, timeouts, and firearm storage effective? Results from a cluster-randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics 2008;12:e15-e25  4. Kellermann AL, Rivara FP. Silencing the science on gun research. JAMA (

An ER Doc Has Seen More Gun Violence in NYC Than in Baghdad

At the E.R., Bearing Witness to Gun Violence
By David N. Newman /  New York Times  /  January 1, 2013
Dr. Newman is the director of clinical research in the department of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
There is an unspoken rule in medicine: we do not tell tales out of school.
As an emergency room physician, an Army veteran who was deployed to a combat support hospital in Baghdad in 2005, and a biomedical researcher in the field of cardiac-arrest resuscitation, I have been and am, on a daily basis, a witness to grave misfortune. Ordinarily, though, except for medical purposes, I will not discuss what I have seen.  ... we doctors are at the front lines of the scourge of gun violence, and that to remain silent as this threat to public health continues unabated would be no different than for an oncologist or a cardiologist to stay mum on the dangers of smoking.
... Much of the gun violence I have seen, though, I have seen on home soil, here in the United States. There was a 9-year-old girl, shot in the chest by an assault rifle during a "drive-by" gang shooting, in a botched retaliation for a shooting earlier that day. She was baffled, and in pain, with a gaping hole under her collarbone.
I have also seen an 8-year-old who found a shotgun in the closet while playing with a friend. The two boys pointed the weapon at each other a number of times before the gun accidentally discharged. The 8-year-old arrived in my emergency department with most of his face blown off. Miraculously, he survived.
Another child I will never forget was a 13-year-old who was shot twice in the abdomen by an older boy who mistook him for one of a group that had bullied and berated him a week earlier. Slick with sweat and barely conscious, he groaned and turned to look at me. Soon after, he died in the operating room. His mother arrived minutes later, wide-eyed and breathless.
I do not know exactly what measures should be taken to reduce gun violence like this. But I know that most homicides and suicides in America are carried out with guns. Research suggests that homes with a gun are two to three times more likely to experience a firearm death than homes without guns, and that members of the household are 18 times more likely to be the victim than intruders.
I know that in 2009, ... nearly 400 American children (age 14 and under) were killed with a firearm and nearly 1,000 were injured. That means that this week we can expect 26 more children to be injured or killed with a firearm.
Emergency rooms are themselves volatile environments, not immune to violence. Over the last decade, a quarter of gun crimes in American E.R.'s were committed with guns wrested from armed guards.
I have sworn an oath to heal and to protect humans. Guns, invented to maim and destroy, are my natural enemy. ...

The NRA Blocked Physicians from Recording Gun Use

"NRA Fingerprints in Landmark Health-Care Law"
By and / Washington Post / December 30, 2012

The words were tucked deep into the sprawling text of President Obama's signature health-care overhaul. Under the headline "Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights" was a brief provision restricting the ability of doctors to gather data about their patients' gun [ownership and] use - a largely overlooked but significant challenge to a movement in American medicine to treat firearms as a matter of public health.
How are we as healthcare professionals to help prevent suicide, the #1 disease killer (depression) of adolescents and young adults in the U.S.?

Oregon Lawmakers Stake Out Positions

Gun Debate Coming to Salem in February
By Lauren Drake  /  The Bulletin  /  December 24, 2012
SALEM - As discussions surrounding gun control fire up the nation, Oregon's lawmakers are preparing to wade into the debate this legislative session.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has directed his staff to delve into firearm regulation, school safety measures and mental health issues, hoping for what his spokesman said could be the "basis for a comprehensive approach to the problem."
Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, who campaigned on creating stronger gun laws in the state in 1996, is planning to push similar legislation again this session, along with bills that would ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.
Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, who made national headlines when he sent an email to school superintendents saying that if someone had been armed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the result could have been different.
Burdick said Richardson's stance is "not the solution."
House Republican Leader-elect Rep. Mike McLane, of Powell Butte, is "a strong supporter of the Second Amendment" and "has a hard time envisioning himself supporting a ban on assault weapons."
Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Portland, who sits on the state's powerful budget-writing committee, wants more studies of mental health access to find out "what is it about our access to mental health care that isn't working"
Reporter: 541-554-1162

Oregon and Other State Gun Laws

Oregon's Current Gun Laws
Accompanying Lauren Drakes' Report in The Bulletin  /  December 24, 2012
Oregon laws on gun ownership and gun sales are more restrictive than most rural states, but less stringent than those in California and other large states in the Midwest and Northeast.  However, no one measure provides a complete picture of a state's policies. State laws detailed [in this report] are a partial look at gun policy in Oregon. 
No or minimal restrictions [Selected from the report]
� There are no restrictions on the number of firearms or quantity of ammunition a buyer can purchase at any one time.
� There is no waiting period on the transfer of firearms.
� There are no restrictions on the sale or possession of high-capacity magazines, semi-automatic firearms or firearms covered under the expired 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Automatic weapons - those which fire continuously as long as the trigger is depressed - are effectively illegal nationwide due to strict federal registration policies.
� Employers are not required to allow their employees to possess firearms in company parking lots.
Open carrying of firearms in public is permitted, though cities or counties may restrict open carrying of loaded firearms.
� Individuals with concealed carry licenses, are exempted from the prohibition on firearms in public buildings.
� Background checks are not required for private-party sales or transfers.
Restrictions  [Selected from the report]
Firearms are banned in public buildings, including schools, hospitals and most state and local government buildings.
Applicants, gun dealers and gun show vendors must pass a criminal background check.

Irony Becomes Justifiable Mission

Archie Bleyer, MD / Past President, COMS / December 18, 2012
The day before the Newtown elementary school massacre. the following appeared in the "Good Week For " section of the December 7 issue of The Week magazine. "New York City, where on Monday not as single person was reported shot, stabbed, or murdered--the first time police officials can remember no such crimes over a 24-hour period."
Michael Bloomberg, New York City's mayor, who instituted stricter law enforcement including gun usage, has every right to speak out--and he has--to demand that our President take on gun control as his #1 priority during his second term, after being silent on the topic during his first term and despite his campaign promise of 2008.

Gun-Related Deaths To Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2014

Archie Bleyer, MD / Past President, COMS / December 18, 2012
The declining motor vehicle fatality rate and the increasing gun-related death (homicide, suicides, accident) rate are predicted to intersect in 2014.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control.

And if the trend isn't ominous, compare the U.S. with other countries
In 2011, people killed with guns (not including suicides):
Japan = 48
Great Britain = 8
Switzerland = 34
Canada = 52
Israel = 58
Sweden = 212
Germany = 42
United States = 10,728

Correlation of Suicide vs. Guns Country by Country

Archie Bleyer, MD  /  Past President, COMS  /  Submitted to NEJM September 21, 2008
By comparing state-by-state rates of gun ownership and completed suicide in the U.S., Miller and Hemenway (1) [also see below] predict an increase in suicide in our country after the recent Supreme Court decision struck down a law in our nation's capital that banned handgun ownership and required firearms in homes to be locked (2). They did not cite international data, however, that demonstrate an even stronger correlation (Fig. 1, modified from 3) that is supported by multilevel modeling of longitudinal data (4). Moreover, countries with increased gun regulations (Australia [cf. Kristof editorial below], Norway, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand) have had "an obvious decline in firearm suicides" and have concluded that "legislation and regulatory measures that reducing the availability of firearms in private households can distinctly strengthen the prevention of firearm suicides" (4).  According Miller and Hemenway's data, approximately half of our country's suicides could be prevented by the kind of law the District of Columbia had passed and is now rendered unconstitutional.
1. Miller M, Hemenway D. Guns and suicide in the United States. N Engl J Med 2008;359:10-12 (see report below).    2. Drazen JM, Morrissey S, Curfman GD. Guns and Health. N Engl J Med 2008;359:517-8.  3. Killias M. International correlations between gun ownership and rates of homicide and suicide. CMAJ. 148(10):1721-5,1993.  4. Gross V, et al.  Am J Public Health. 2006 Oct;96(10):1752-5.

Homicide & Guns in the U.S.

A similar correlation exists for homicides versus gun availability 
A. Bleyer  /  Past-President, COMS  /  September 2009

The U.S. has 3 fatal shootings per 100,000 population per year (pp) versus less than 1 pp in England. According to Wikipedia, there were, in 2007, 89 guns per 100 persons in the U.S. and 6 per 100 in England. Compared to England, there were 15 times as many guns pp and 30x more fatal shootings pp in the U.S.

Looking for Lessons in Newtown

By Nicholas D. Kristof (who grew up on a ranch in Oregon ... see next editorial) / New York Times / December 19, 2012      
After my column [next item below] ... urging tighter gun control, I faced incoming salvos from firearm enthusiasts. Let me respond to some of their arguments:
... This is a time for mourning, not for demonizing gun-owners.
Oh, come on! The president and Congress are supposed to address national problems - and every two months, we lose more Americans to gun violence than we did in the 9/11 attacks, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Children's Defense Fund found that we lose some 2,800 children and teenagers to guns annually.  That's more than the number of American troops who have died in any year in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. More than twice as many preschoolers die annually from gun violence in America as law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty. So this is a time for mourning, yes, but it's time for President Obama to display leadership as well as grief.
... gun laws are feel-good measures that don't make a difference. Norway has very restrictive gun laws, but it had its own massacre of 77 people.
It's true that the 1994 assault weapons ban was not very effective, ... partly because it had trouble defining assault weapons. ... As for Norway, its laws did not prevent the massacre there last year. But, in a typical year, Norway has 10 or fewer gun murders. The United States has more than that in eight hours.
If people want to kill, you can't stop them. ... On the same day as the Connecticut tragedy, a man attacked 23 schoolchildren in China with a knife.
But, in the attack in China, not one of those children died. What makes guns different is their lethality. That's why the military doesn't arm our troops with forks.  Gun suicides (nearly 19,000 a year in the U.S.) outnumber gun murders (more than 11,000), and a gun in the home increases the risk that someone in the home will commit suicide. The reason is that suicide attempts with pills or razors often fail; with guns, they succeed. When Israel moved to have many soldiers store guns on base rather than at home, its military suicide rates plunged.
We have the Second Amendment, which protects our right to bear arms. So don't talk about gun control!
... The question isn't whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.  I'd like to see us take a public health approach that reduces the harm that guns cause. We could limit gun purchases to one a month to impede traffickers, make serial numbers harder to file off, ban high-capacity magazines, finance gun buybacks, require solid background checks even for private gun sales, require microstamping so that bullet casings can be traced back to a particular gun and mandate that guns be stored in gun safes or with trigger locks.
And if you need to enter a code to operate your cellphone, why not to fire your gun?
If you were at home at night and heard creaking downstairs, wouldn't you want a Glock in your night stand?
... The gun lobby often cites the work of John Lott, who argued that more guns mean less crime, but scholars have since thoroughly debunked Lott's arguments. Published research makes it clear that having a gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot - by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun.  Nancy Lanza is a case in point. She perhaps thought that her guns would keep her safe. But they were used to kill her and then schoolchildren.  As children were being rushed out of Sandy Hook Elementary School, they were told to cover their eyes. I hope we don't do the same and blind ourselves to the lessons of this tragedy.

Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Nicholas D. Kristof  (who grew up on a ranch in Oregon)/ New York Times  /  December 16, 2012     Click here for full editorial
In the harrowing aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, one thought wells in my mind: Why can't we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?
The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals - all countries have them - but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.
Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard [also author of suicide correlations with gun availability, described above].
So let's treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The U.S. realistically isn't going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.
American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill
OSHA has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.
We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips - but lawmakers don't have the gumption to stand up to NRA extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won't stand up to the NRA? As one of my Facebook followers wrote, "It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun."
Look, I grew up on an Oregon farm where guns were a part of life; and my dad gave me a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I understand: shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can't we be equally adult about regulating guns?
And don't say that it won't make a difference because crazies will always be able to get a gun. We're not going to eliminate gun deaths, any more than we have eliminated auto accidents. But if we could reduce gun deaths by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved annually.
Likewise, don't bother with the argument that if more people carried guns, they would deter shooters or interrupt them. Mass shooters typically kill themselves or are promptly caught, so it's hard to see what deterrence would be added by having more people pack heat. There have been few if any cases in the United States in which an ordinary citizen with a gun stopped a mass shooting.
The tragedy isn't one school shooting, it's the unceasing toll across our country. More Americans die in gun homicides and suicides in six months than have died in the last 25 years in every terrorist attack and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.
So what can we do? A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can't kill as many people without reloading.
We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let's make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun.
"We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years," President Obama noted in a tearful statement on television. He's right, but the solution isn't just to mourn the victims - it's to change our policies. Let's see leadership on this issue, not just moving speeches.
Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation's conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The "national firearms agreement," as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.
The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.
In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings - but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half. 
... we can look for inspiration at our own history on auto safety. As with guns, some auto deaths are caused by people who break laws or behave irresponsibly. But we don't shrug and say, "Cars don't kill people, drunks do."
Instead, we have required seat belts, air bags, child seats and crash safety standards. We have introduced limited licenses for young drivers and tried to curb the use of mobile phones while driving. All this has reduced America's traffic fatality rate per mile driven by nearly 90 percent since the 1950s.
Some of you are alive today because of those auto safety regulations. And if we don't treat guns in the same serious way, some of you and some of your children will die because of our failure.